Remote work likely to stick, even in economic slowdown

Employees enjoyed a more flexible, comfortable workplace without having to commute to the office at the pandemic's height. Now, they are fighting to keep remote work an option — and some employers are reeling back their hesitancy, The New York Times reported Jan. 7. 

Executives have expressed concerns about workers' productivity at home, and some fear their company culture will take a hit if teams do not collaborate face-to-face. As companies rethink their operations for the year ahead, remote work has been on some high-profile chopping blocks. Goldman Sachs is requiring workers to return to the office, Elon Musk rescinded Twitter's work-from-home policy shortly after acquiring the company, and Disney's CEO Bob Iger reportedly expressed concerns about the remote model. 

In 2019, five percent of U.S. workdays were completed remotely. In May 2020, that number rose to 60 percent. Now it sits around 30 percent, and economists do not expect it to keep dropping. 

Employers and employees tend to agree on the ideal hybrid work model, with employees wanting an average of 2.8 days to work from home each week, and employers willing to give 2.3, according to a December SWAA. survey. 

And although workers have long expressed the benefits they perceive of working from home — including less distractions from office chit-chat and time saved on the commute — managers are more likely to concede for financial reasons. 

Fourteen percent of workers would take a pay cut to work remotely, a ZipRecruiter survey found. Remote work can make a job more appealing to prospective talent without offering higher pay — which is especially beneficial as confidence in the economy wanes. 

A paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research asked hundreds of senior executives whether they had expanded remote work as a way to "keep employees happy and to moderate wage-growth pressures," the Times reported. Thirty-eight percent said they had done so in the past 12 months, and 41 percent planned to in the next year. The paper's authors estimated that offering remote work could cut company's salary bills by 2 percent over two years. 

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