Companies are luring workers back to the office, but employees increasingly want to be remote full-time, and searches for remote jobs have increased significantly, according to two reports.
Two newly-released reports show that the desire to work from home has skyrocketed. From July 2021 to July 2022, remote work search queries jumped 300%, according to a jobs study compiled by Semrush. A vast majority of workers also report that remote work would make them happier, the State of Remote Work report from Owls Lab and Global Workplace Analytics found.
Searches such as “remote jobs near me,” “part-time remote jobs,” and “entry-level remote jobs” more than quadrupled in popularity year over year, according to Semrush, a visibility management SaaS platform provider. Meanwhile, the median share of remote jobs offered by job search websites is only 6.8%, indicating demand for remote work likely far outstrips supply.
This comes as the U.S. labor market remains strong and unemployment in the U.S. sinks to 3.5%, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, indicating employers may have to continue offering benefits such as remote work to lure talent.
More people want remote and hybrid work, and employers are trying to catch up
Some companies have been trying to lure workers back to the office again this fall, but employees want the flexibility they’ve become accustomed to over the past few years, according to the report from Global Workplace Analytics, a consulting firm, and Owl Labs, a video conferencing provider.
The percentage of workers who want to be remote full-time increased by 8% points since last year to 42%, and 36% of employees now want to be hybrid, up 5% points, based on the Owl Labs/Global Workplace Analytics survey. The vast majority (86%) said remote work would make them happier, and 62% feel more productive when working remotely.
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The call to come back to the office is loudest among smaller companies: 41% of small businesses (between 10 and 50 employees) are requiring people to return to the office, compared to 27% of enterprises (10,000+ employees), according to the Owl Labs/Global Workplace Analytics report.
The flexibility that employees want is slowly becoming the norm — workers reported that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 8% of their companies had flexible policies compared to now, with almost two-thirds (62%) saying their company has implemented at least some degree of flexible work.
Mid-sized companies (between 501 and 5,000 employees) are leading the way with 70% offering flexible work policies — more than any other size company, the Owl Labs/Global Workplace Analytics report said. Yet some employers remain unprepared, with only half training managers on how to lead remote and hybrid teams, and 54% teaching workers how to hold effective and inclusive hybrid meetings.
Remote work employees’ concerns about proximity bias
Because employees now have more choices than ever in how they work, many are concerned that in-person colleagues may advance quicker and have advantages over remote team members due to proximity bias — meaning physical proximity to the in-office boss — according to the Owl Labs/Global Workplace Analytics report.
More than half of workers (51%) said they think the office is the best place for advancing their careers, compared to 31% who think remote locations are best. Nearly half of employees (49%) believe they won’t be able to build relationships with leadership team members while working remotely.
“These fears are valid, as more than half of workers (51%) admit to preferring to manage others in person versus remotely (25%), and nearly half (49%) are more likely to ask the opinion of their colleagues in person over their remote team members,” according to the Owl Labs/Global Workplace Analytics report.
“This new data shows that successful businesses need to present a range of hybrid options and technologies to keep workers happy and productive, as one-size-fits-all remote or in-person policies don’t allow everyone to do their best work,’’ said Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs, in a statement. “Listening to employees is crucial as companies iterate on their policies, practices and product solutions to align with team members’ needs.”
Workers’ thoughts about productivity, stress, costs and more
The enduring popularity of remote work was not the only potentially surprising search trend. Despite reports of widespread tech layoffs, major employers such as Amazon, Meta, Google, Netflix and Apple are as popular as ever, the Semrush report said.
Additional findings from the Owl Labs/Global Workplace Analytics report include the following.
- Nearly half of workers (49%) said they can meet deadlines better when remote versus 31% who like to reach deadlines in-office.
- More than half of workers (51%) said team meetings are more productive at the office, while a quarter (25%) prefer joining team meetings remotely.
- The office design is changing, with coworking spaces becoming a popular “third place” between the office and home.
- Going to the office costs employees twice as much as working remotely.
- Employee stress has increased, especially due to recession fears and return to office demands. This led to 80% of employees saying they want to try out a four-day workweek model.
- Companies are eroding trust with employee-tracking software and flip-flopping on policies.
- The Great Resignation isn’t over yet, and workers are setting boundaries by “quiet quitting” and then actually quitting when they don’t have the flexibility they want.
Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics surveyed more than 2,300 full-time workers across the United States to uncover the latest trends and perspectives around remote and hybrid work.
Semrush relied on internal tools to analyze the biggest job portals’ web traffic and also analyzed Google searches related to jobs and careers.
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