While many U.S. professionals are embracing hybrid work arrangements, new research from talent solutions firm Robert Half shows a majority of companies anticipate a full return to the office once the pandemic ends.
According to a survey of more than 2,800 senior managers in the U.S., 71% of respondents said they will require their teams to be on-site full time once COVID-19-related restrictions completely lift. Far fewer will allow employees to follow a hybrid schedule, where they can divide time between the office and another location (16%) or give staff the complete freedom to choose where they work (12%).
Workers May Walk
Employers should be aware of the risks of mandating a full return to the office: Previous research reveals nearly half of employees (49%) prefer a hybrid arrangement, and about 1 in 3 professionals (34%) currently working from home due to the pandemic would look for a new job if required to be in the office five days a week. In addition, a separate survey finds 43% of workers feel much more productive when remote versus in the office.
“When it comes to hybrid work, there’s a disconnect between what managers prefer and what employees expect,” said Robert Half senior executive director Paul McDonald. “But in this talent-driven market, especially, companies need to prioritize their people and look to the future. Providing flexibility is a low-cost way to create a positive employee experience and inclusive workplace culture.”
Providing flexibility is a low-cost way to create a positive employee experience and inclusive workplace culture.
Where Hybrid Opportunities Will Prevail
Managers’ views about the future of hybrid work vary by city, practice area and company size. Those most likely to favor flexibility (with the highest percentage allowing employees to be remote part or full time) reside in:
- Boston (45%), San Francisco (38%) and Philadelphia (37%)
- Marketing (30%) and finance (28%) departments
- Large organizations with 1,000 or more employees (30%)
Hybrid Work Hurdles
Employers cited a variety of top challenges when managing hybrid teams, pointing to the complexities of supporting a dispersed workforce long-term:
- Communicating effectively with team members: 22%
- Trusting employees to get work done: 20%
- Gauging workloads and helping staff avoid burnout: 20%
- Effectively recognizing and rewarding employee accomplishments: 20%
- Finding time for team development: 19%
McDonald added, “As a company that has embraced hybrid work, we’ve experienced some of the challenges and opportunities first-hand. It’s a moving target that requires ongoing commitment and collaboration from many teams, but the outcome of increased employee morale, productivity and retention is worth the investment.”