As the COVID-19 pandemic raged across the country, American employers reluctantly underwent a mass shift to remote work. Remote work had been technically possible for many job types years before the pandemic, but a fear of lost productivity and negative impacts on team cohesion made many companies reluctant to allow remote work until they literally had no choice!
To the delightful surprise of many employers, productivity didn’t tank when the office shifted to remote. Employees have generally been as productive as—and, in some cases, more productive than—they were before they left the physical office.
Remote work had been a dream of millions before the pandemic made it a necessity. Now that they’ve gotten a taste of the good life, most would prefer not to return to the office. This means the ability to work remotely is a key factor companies need to consider when competing for workers. In a job market that currently favors applicants, companies that do not offer remote work may be at a distinct disadvantage.
Costs of Physical Office Space
Commercial office space is often one of the most significant costs for businesses. Companies that have shifted staff to remote work and plan to do so long term are finding they can do away with costly leases and add money to the bottom line.
Given all of these benefits, it would seem as though the obvious choice for businesses is to implement a complete and permanent shift to remote work, right? Well, not so fast. It turns out, not all employees prefer a completely remote work arrangement.
Not All Employees Want to Work 100% Remotely
As Lexi McMenamin writes in an article for BBC Worklife, young workers in particular are looking for a hybrid option that allows them to spend some time in the office and some time working remotely.
“This isn’t wholly surprising,” she writes. “Among many reasons, Gen Z have missed out on some of the early career-advancement opportunities, while being stuck at home during the pandemic. But, at the same time, data shows they’re not entirely keen to take to desks daily. Instead, they’re the group most eager to land squarely in the middle.”
McMenamin points to a recent McKinsey & Company study on workers’ perspectives on future work models. The research indicates that those in the 18- to 20-year range are most interested in hybrid work; ideally, they’d like to work from home 2–3 days a week. About half (48%) say they’d prefer a hybrid work arrangement. “While other workers do want to hybrid set-ups – 44% of 30-to-49-year-olds, and 38% of workers 50 and older – Gen Z most wants a foot in each world,” McMenamin writes.
Given the growing size of Gen Z in the workforce, employers need to consider the working preferences of the group when contemplating long-term office arrangements. Those employers considering doing away with their office space entirely may need to rethink that strategy and how it may impact their ability to recruit and retain younger workers.