Good news, workers: You win. For the most part.
According to a new ZipRecruiter survey, fully in-person work has gone just about extinct. Only about 15% of remote-capable companies require five days a week of in-office work.
That’s a response to the pandemic-era discovery that flexible work arrangements will reap huge recruitment and retention benefits, Julia Pollak, ZipRecruiter’s chief economist, tells Fortune.
Why? Mostly because remote and hybrid plans are a tough act to follow when it comes to recruitment and retention. If bosses doubted their effectiveness two years ago, ZipRecruiter wrote, they can’t anymore. About 75% of remote-capable companies allow at least two remote days per week, and ZipRecruiter reports that companies who attempted to call workers back to their desk despite their desires suffered a “heavy cost” to their morale and workforce, namely losing top talent.
Two days of in-person work gets enough people in the building to justify the investment, as well as to see the impact of collaboration and connection, Pollak says. “The problem we found is that many companies aren’t yet doing an effective job of ensuring that there is coordination around those days—many companies have the worst of all worlds.” (Remote work guru Nick Bloom would call that “disorganized hybrid.”)
During the pandemic, bosses believed reduced absenteeism was the biggest perk of remote work, but now they’re mainly proponents of how it improves retention, bolsters productivity, and provides access to a broader talent pool, Pollak says.
Even so, 43% of companies cut down on their permitted amount of remote work over the past year, which reflects bosses’ continued unease with the practice. Some still believe it harms company culture or dampens productivity, though plenty of research disproves both points.
(Sixty percent of ZipRecruiter’s respondents agreed that remote or hybrid employees performed just as well as their in-person counterparts, and 52% of companies said improved productivity is one of remote work’s key benefits.) Yet many bosses remain rankled that they can’t observe or monitor employees from a distance, and some told ZipRecruiter they believe remote work is simply less productive.
That doesn’t matter much to workers; remote job listings on ZipRecruiter receive triple the number of applications in-person jobs do. “The fact that employers see improved retention and recruitment as the biggest benefits of remote work suggests that some share of remote work may turn out to be pro-cyclical,” ZipRecruiter wrote, “increasing in economic boom times and decreasing during downturns, when recruitment and retention generally become easier due to slacker labor market conditions and employers may not value the remote boost as much.”
Office occupancy rates have hovered around 50% for years now, according to data from Kastle Systems, a building security firm that tracks key swipes. That’s despite several years of return-to-work mandates in the fall and travel in the summer and during holidays, and it’s unlikely to budge above 60% in the foreseeable future. “There will be a natural ceiling to it,” Mark Ein, Kastle Systems’ chairman, told Fortune. “We’re never really going to get to 100%.”
While most companies that have demanded an office return don’t coordinate in-office days, they do largely monitor individual compliance. That suggests that companies devote more attention to enforcing office requirements than actually making them work for their people and the “culture” they voice concern about, per the report. No wonder some may insist hybrid doesn’t work.
By seeking out and rushing to adopt best hybrid work practices, ZipRecruiter writes, employers could “stand to retain the recruitment and retention benefits of flexibility while also turning its challenges into opportunities.”
They’re also just, simply put, going to find they’ve got happier workers.