As the economy slows, are employers beginning to regain the upper hand in negotiations with employees and job seekers? Pay is always an issue, of course, but in the wake of the pandemic, so is the amount of time employers want people to work onsite versus the amount of time they’re willing to let employees work. from a distance.
Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that only 27.5% of private sector companies said their employees worked from home or another remote location some or all of the time between August 1, 2022 and August 30. September 2022.
In other words, 72.5% of private sector organizations – compared to 60% during the period from July to September 2021 – say they did not have employees working remotely.
This percentage seemed surprisingly high to researchers and observers working from home, given what other studies and surveys have revealed. (More on these in a minute.)
Private sector companies employ a majority of American workers and, according to the Pew Research Center, 61% of workers do not have work that can be done remotely. But it’s worth noting that the BLS findings didn’t measure telecommuting arrangements among federal, state, and local employers, nonprofits, or among the self-employed.
The BLS survey also interpreted respondent responses as referring to a company’s formal telecommuting policies, not whether some employees work remotely informally on occasion, such as answering work emails from home. .
“Since ‘working from home’ would include someone checking email after hours, we deliberately did not want to capture this type of informal work activity in the estimates, as it would likely be included in the ‘rarely or never’ category,” a BLS spokesperson said in an email to CNN.
Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom said he struggled to infer much from the BLS’s 72.5% result because he argues that respondents must have misread the very first question in the survey , which read, “Are any employees at this location currently telecommuting in some capacity?” In his view, “any amount” includes answering work emails or taking a work call from home.
Semantic concerns aside, however, the confusion and surprise over the BLS discovery is a reminder that there is still no standard or easy way to measure the full extent of remote working in a post-pandemic world. .
Other surveys and studies of people who work for all employers – not just those in the private sector – suggest that telecommuting for those whose work can be done remotely remains common in this post-pandemic period.
The Pew Research Center, for example, found in a nationally representative survey of full-time working adults in the United States conducted in February that 41% of workers whose work can be done from home now work according to a hybrid schedule. That’s up from 35% in January of last year.
Of hybrid workers who are not self-employed, 63% said their employer requires them to report to work with some regularity; 59% say they usually work from home three or more days a week.
That suggests that efforts by top employers — such as Disney, Amazon, Apple, as well as several Wall Street banks — to get employees back into the office three or more days a week may not have moved the needle much.
Meanwhile, Kastle Systems, which operates card-swiping security machines in office buildings across the United States, said the weekly the average office occupancy rate at the end of March in the most populous US cities was 49% of pre-pandemic levels. Although this is much higher than the occupancy rates recorded at the height of the pandemic, it is still a far cry from the occupancy rates recorded in February 2020 just before the pandemic hit.
The latest results from the monthly Working Conditions and Attitudes (SWAA) Survey, which Bloom and other researchers have conducted since May 2020, found that the overall average number of paid days worked from home in 2023 is up now 1.4 per week (or 28% of the working week). This is based on responses from Americans aged 20-64 who earned $10,000 or more in the previous year.
The same survey respondents said their employers plan to allow employees to work remotely 2.2 days a week, for those who can. This is up from the 1.6 days expected in August 2020, although below the 2.4 days expected recorded in June 2022.
SWAA has found that working from home is more prevalent in cities and in sectors such as technology and information, finance and insurance, and professional and business services. This is somewhat similar to the BLS finding that telecommuting is most common in the following industries: information, professional and business services, educational services, and wholesale trade.
Remote work experts strongly say that hybrid schedules will remain a permanent feature of working in the United States for a host of reasons – including better worker engagement and retention – even if the parameters and issues are still in play. being developed in real time.
“Companies are always trying to figure it out,” said Sara Sutton, CEO of remote jobs platform FlexJobs, which she founded 16 years ago. But, added Sutton, “Hybrid is where things will settle.”
As for the overall average of how often employers are likely to let employees work from home, Bloom thinks it will be 25% of the week. “I have spoken to hundreds of WFH organizations [working from home] over the past three weeks, and it is now clearly stabilizing at a post-pandemic norm,” he said in an email.
Fully remote jobs, meanwhile, will remain, but may become less prevalent than they have been recently. In Pew’s February survey, 35% of people who could work remotely did so full-time, up from 55% in October 2020, but still well above the 7% of people working remotely full-time before the pandemic. pandemic.