Hybrid work ramps up as employers push in-office time over work from home

·7 min read

Remy Reya, deputy chief of staff at Compass Pro Bono, splits his work week between his studio apartment, or a local coffee shop, and the Washington, D.C., office where he typically works three days a week.

While his company mandates the in-person days, it works for him.

“Because I am hybrid, though, I have to work a little harder to connect with colleagues,” Reya told Yahoo Finance. “Carving out space to develop camaraderie with my teammates that helps us work better together is almost always easier to do in person.”

Many workers, like Reya, are part of the shift in the post-pandemic world of work where hybrid and remote arrangements have swapped places in terms of prevalence.

In February, 41% of workers with jobs that can be done remotely have a hybrid schedule, up from 35% in January 2022, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted of 5,188 U.S. adults working part or full time. At the same time, 35% remain fully remote, down from 43% a little over a year ago.

The reversal reflects how more employers are requiring more office time to foster in-person collaboration, even though many workers would prefer to spend fewer days away from home.

“Since late 2022, we are seeing more companies, both large and small, moving from hiring remote to making jobs hybrid,” Gwenn Rosener, partner, and co-founder of FlexProfessionals, a recruiting and staffing firm for the Boston and Washington, D.C., areas, told Yahoo Finance. “Positions that are 100% remote are becoming more elusive.”

(Credit: Pew Research Center)
(Credit: Pew Research Center)

‘Trying to reestablish internal cultures’

Among hybrid workers who are not self-employed, 63% say their employer requires them to work in person a certain number of days per week or month, Pew found.

Similarly, in early 2022, 56% of the job searches Rosener’s company supported were for fully remote jobs. Since the beginning of 2023, that number has dropped to 39%, she said.

Remote jobs are also becoming less attractive pay-wise, another nudge from employers to more in-person time. Payscale’s recent 2023 Compensation Best Practices Report found that about a quarter of employers surveyed pay employees who don’t come into an office less than those who do for the same position.

The impetus for the rise of hybrid: Flexprofessional’s clients are “trying to reestablish internal cultures and work processes that have eroded over the past several years of heavily remote work,” Rosener said. “Second, they feel that training and mentoring are more effective and efficient in-person, and for some types of jobs, that nothing beats in-person collaboration.”

For instance, a study co-authored by Jonathan Levav of Stanford Graduate School of Business and Melanie Brucks of Columbia Business School found that in-person teams generated more ideas than remote teams working on the same problem.

A group of three young women and two men of different ethnicities are in a business meeting in a modern day office. A bald man is talking to the group while there are laptops and documents on the table.
A study co-authored by Jonathan Levav of Stanford Graduate School of Business and Melanie Brucks of Columbia Business School found that in-person teams generated more ideas than remote teams working on the same problem. (Getty Creative)

In a laboratory experiment administered at Stanford, half the teams worked alongside each other in person and half worked virtually. The in-person teams spawned 15% to 20% more ideas than their on-line teams, according to the researchers. In another experiment that tapped 1,490 engineers at a multinational corporation, in-person teams also popped up with more original ideas.

A potential reason online meetings produce a dearth of good ideas: “Videoconferencing hampers idea generation because it focuses communicators on a screen, which prompts a narrower cognitive focus,” the researchers concluded. “As virtual communicators narrow their visual scope to the shared environment of a screen, their cognitive focus narrows in turn. This narrowed focus constrains the associative process underlying idea generation.”

‘A major competitive advantage’

Still, unlike Reya, some candidates have been slow to accept the shift, and some have walked away from jobs requiring any in-office time, Rosener said. “For those who are open to hybrid arrangements, most are looking for at least three days remote.”

That jibes with Pew’s findings. Almost 3 in 5 of all hybrid workers said they work from home three or more days in a typical week.

But getting to that schedule can be fraught. When employers like Amazon announce that they want them back in the office it’s a point of contention. The majority of organizations (51%) surveyed by Payscale have been “experiencing resistance by their workers when asked to return” to traditional or even hybrid offices.

Amazon's top human-resources executive reportedly dismissed an internal petition signed by more than 30,000 employees over the company's return-to-office policy. Apple is tracking employee attendance and has warned staff who don't work from the office at least three days a week about possible repercussions, according to a report by AppleInsider.

African American customer woman talking to support service employee, operator on video call. Female business coworkers discussing project marketing report on distance virtual chat at computer monitor
In February, 41% of workers with jobs that can be done remotely have a hybrid schedule, up from 35% in January 2022, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Companies that offer truly remote work, however, which is around 11% of those surveyed by Payscale, will still have a major competitive advantage this year in attracting and retaining talent,” Amy Stewart, associate director of content and editorial at PayScale, previously told Yahoo Finance.

This is why. A good portion of hybrid workers want more home time.

Just over a third of those currently working from home most of the time would like to do it all the time, if they had the choice, the Pew survey found. And among those who are working from home some of the time, half say they’d like to do so all or most of the time.

That’s probably why fully remote work is not going back into the bottle, an accommodation that continues to be much more common than before the pandemic, especially among workers.

“Among those with jobs that can be done from home, 35% are now working from home all the time,” Kim Parker, Pew Research Center’s director of social trends research, told Yahoo Finance. “That’s down from the height of the pandemic lockdowns, but still exponentially higher than the 7% who did so in pre-pandemic days.”

‘I am more productive at home’

That includes Beth Ferrentino, a material program manager for Raytheon Technologies, who lives in Mont Vernon, N.H., and works fully remote from her home. The arrangement enables her to be available for her kids in the mornings and afternoons, echoing many remote workers.

Seven in 10 of those who work from home at least some of the time reported that the largest upside is how the arrangement helps to balance their work and personal lives, according to the Pew survey. Fifty-six percent say it helps them get their work done and meet deadlines.

“It gives me flexibility,” Ferrentino told Yahoo Finance. “I find that I am more productive at home than in the office with a quiet workspace and few distractions.”

Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center

And despite concerns among employers over connectedness, Ferrentino fosters her professional relationships with coworkers via Teams messaging and Zoom meetings.

“We try to get together in person every quarter which helps build an in-person presence as well,” she said.

That echoes Pew’s findings, which show that remote workers are extremely or very satisfied with their relationships with coworkers at the same rates as those with hybrid or traditional in-office schedules. Still, 53% of folks who work from home at least some of the time say the arrangement does ding their ability to feel connected with co-workers.

“Work from the office can be more punctuated with conversation, but I've always appreciated the reminder that we're not meant to work nine hours straight in isolation every day,” Reya said. “Connecting with colleagues and managers in those unplanned moments can have benefits for our work, too, because many of those ‘side conversations’ have led to valuable insights about our shared work. Even though it can feel unnatural on Zoom, I try to make space for those moments when I'm working remotely, too.”

Kerry is a Senior Reporter and Columnist at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

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