A Glimmer of Hope for Working Remote

Companies offering flexible work schedules are hiring talent at twice the rate of those that don’t. Is the big push for RTO slowing—and for how long?

Remote workers could see the walls coming in last year, as more and more firms put their foot down requiring people to come back to the office. Those with jobs tried to work out hybrid deals, but job seekers could see the job postings offering remote options dwindling fast.

In a surprise turn of events, companies in need of hiring are turning to at least slightly more flexible rules to lure candidates. Indeed, companies that allow at least one day of remote work each week increased staffing at nearly twice the rate of those with full-time office requirements, according to an analysis of more than 3,600 companies by Scoop Technologies, a software firm that tracks workplace policies, and People Data Labs, a data technology company. 

The analysis looked at data from May 2022 through May 2023 and found that the more flexible firms grew staff by 5% on average versus 2.6% for companies mandating positions be fully in-office. At the same time, however, the data shows more hiring for jobs that require people back in the office a majority of the time, but not every day.

Jacob Zabkowicz, vice president and general manager in the Recruitment Process Outsourcing practice at Korn Ferry, says the data reinforces both the continued resistance from workers to come in, and the difficult job market. “The days of requiring everyone on site every day are gone in most fields,” he says. “Companies trying that are at a disadvantage.”  Christian Hasenoehrl, a senior client partner in the Consumer and Industrial practices at Korn Ferry, agrees that the strong job market for candidates is dictating much of this. “Labor market distortions are still in favor of candidates and workers,” he says.

How long firms will allow at least some remote work is hard to predict. Data from the study shows that companies with open positions requiring four days in office increased hiring 3.8%, only one percentage point below the 4.8% growth in hiring for jobs requiring only one day in office. The data mirrors the growing list of companies upping in-office mandates from three days per week to four.

At the end of the day, employees still desire as much flexibility as they can get. But experts say the constant flow of layoff news, among other macroeconomic factors, is causing them to become more pragmatic about remote work. Zabkowicz says many employees and job seekers are also coming to realize the importance of the office for their careers and wellbeing. “Employees want to get back into the office in some respect to have that connectivity,” he says.

On the employer side, Deepali Vyas, global head of the Fintech, Payments, and Crypto practice at Korn Ferry,  says leaders are realizing they can still drive culture and productivity without everyone being in the office every day. Pointing to data showing that workers with flexible work schedules are more productive than their peers, she argues that “taking the guardrails off” office mandates for mid- and senior-level employees can engender loyalty and increase retention.

“Experienced professionals who have executed on projects and understand deliverables feel they’ve earned the right to design their own schedules,” says Vyas, adding that workers who are given that trust assume more personal responsibility and often put in more time working.

For both employers and employees, Hasenoehrl says, identifying the number of days allowed for remote work is becoming less important than “having the flexibility to manage work along with personal and family affairs.”


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