The annual State of the Union address, given by the U.S. president to Congress and televised around the world, is an opportunity for the president to celebrate his achievements and pitch his priorities to the nation. Those who tuned in to President Joe Biden’s March 2 State of the Union speech may have been surprised to hear a plea for companies to bring their staffs back to the office.
Calling Workers to Return
“It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again,” Biden said in his speech. “People working from home can feel safe to begin to return to the office.”
As Ben Winck reports for Insider, companies have been pushing toward that goal well before Biden’s speech. “The share of workers telecommuting because of the pandemic fell to 13%, down from 15.4% the month prior,” Winck writes. “While that’s still above the December low of 11.1%, it suggests the easing of daily COVID infections led to a quick return to in-person work. It’s also well below the pandemic-era high of 24.3% seen in August 2020.”
Employees Preferring Working from Home
While this trend may please the president, employees are less enthusiastic. “Pew researchers said they found that 60% of workers with jobs that can be done from home say they’d like to work from home all or most of the time when the pandemic is over if given the choice,” writes Jeanne Sahadi in an article for CNN from February 16, just over 2 weeks before Biden’s State of the Union address. “This is up from 54% in 2020.”
This puts employers in a bit of a predicament. While the president may wish for a return to work, that doesn’t necessarily carry much weight for employers, which should be concerned primarily with their workforces’ ability to work remotely versus in the office, as well as their employees’ wishes. The latter is particularly important in the context of the Great Resignation.
As employers continue to struggle to recruit and retain workers, providing the flexibility to work remotely can be a key strategy for companies that can make these arrangements work.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.