Remote Work Offerings: Where Did They Go?

Only one in seven job postings now offers remote work. Is a new era in post-pandemic work emerging?

Based on the posting, the job couldn’t have been more attractive. It was a prominent role, in a high-growth area of the firm, with lots of opportunity for learning and advancement. The job offered a nice six-figure salary, health insurance, unlimited vacation, and other benefits. But one perk was curiously absent—there was no mention of the ability to work remotely. 

Slowly but surely, the option to work remotely is disappearing from job listings. According to data from LinkedIn, more than one-fifth of its job postings earlier this year were for remote work, a pandemic-era high. But over the last seven months, as the economy has soured and the labor market has tightened, remote-work job postings have declined to about 14% of all open positions. At the same time, data from building-access-card swipes tracked by Kastle Systems shows that weekly office-occupancy rates in the top 10 cities in the U.S. are now averaging above 47%. By comparison, in February only about 33% of people were back in the office. 

Jacob Zabkowicz, vice president and general manager of the Recruitment Process Outsourcing practice at Korn Ferry, says the decline in remote-work ads represents a new stage in the post-pandemic future of work. “Employers are less apt to offer remote work as table stakes now, and instead are using it as more of a bargaining chip,” says Zabkowicz. He says leaders are afraid of losing their corporate cultures and would rather pay a premium, or negotiate other aspects of an employment package, to keep their people in the office. “They are trying to limit the option of fully remote work to must-have talent,” he says. 

The financial-services industry has been leading much of this change. In the beginning of the pandemic, financial-services leaders tolerated more than embraced remote work, because they had no other choice. Now, investment bank leaders have been among the most vocal about losing productivity and innovation and wanting people back in the office. Part of that owes to the fact that empty offices mean lost money on real-estate loan obligations. But there’s an even larger reason: “It’s now a buyer’s market instead of a seller’s market when it comes to talent,” says Deepali Vyas, global head of the FinTech, Payments, and Crypto practice at Korn Ferry. “People aren’t going to turn down a job anymore if it isn’t fully remote.” 

Still, workers clearly prefer working from home. Even if only 14% of job postings were for remote work, LinkedIn found that those openings generated more than half of all online applications through the platform in October. Moreover, the weekly average office-occupancy rates have remained steady for the last few months. Nathan Blain, a senior client partner and global leader for optimizing people costs at Korn Ferry, says that so much candidate interest in the small number of remote-work postings underscores how hard it will be for leaders to put the genie back in the bottle. “People have grown accustomed to a more flexible schedule and lifestyle, and want to preserve that,” he says. 

In fact, Blain sees the data as an indication that organizations are getting more strategic about how they manage remote work. Instead of simply hiring talent without regard for location, as they did in the early days of the remote-work era, firms will take more of a hub-and-spoke approach, he says. Organizations with strong regional presences, such as financial-services firms, are likely to try to concentrate remote hiring around two or three geographic centers, for instance. 

Blain says the decline in postings for remote work doesn’t mean organizations are opposed to it entirely, just that they want to open negotiations with candidates with the expectation that they will be in the office at least a few days per week. “What firms are saying is that all things being equal, we want our people to be located near an office, even if they don’t come in full-time,” says Blain.