We’ve taken to remote work like ducks to water. A May 2022 report from Future Forum, which polled 10,000 knowledge workers across the U.S., as well as in Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K found that in America, 69% of people are working either in a fully remote or hybrid capacity.
Another piece of recent research estimates that 25% of all professional jobs in the U.S. will be fully remote by the end of this year. A McKinsey report from June found that when people have the chance to work flexibly, 87% of Americans take it, and this takeup is widespread across demographics, occupations, and geographies.
Our love of remote working is generational too, with Gallup data tagging the majority of remote workers as being Millennials (52%). Just 29% of Gen Xers prefer working remotely, and when it comes to Baby Boomers the figure is even lower at 17%.
So we know people are taking advantage of remote working both during and post-pandemic, but is it serving us? Author and thinker Malcolm Gladwell thinks there is room for improvement. In an interview on the Diary of a CEO podcast, he said that the people most likely to leave his company were those who came to the office the least, or who had been hired in a remote capacity.
While Gladwell is a fan of remote working himself – he is on record as preferring it – he says that the practice can be harmful for anyone aiming to grow their career.
“It’s not in your best interest to work at home. I know it’s a hassle to come to the office, but if you’re just sitting in your pyjamas in your bedroom – is that the work life you want to live,” he asked. More specifically, Gladwell was really alluding to the problem of proximity bias, which is where accidental favoritism comes into play. Post-pandemic, this plays out as a tendency to favor those who come into the office.
Slack’s Future Forum Pulse discovered that executives, white knowledge workers, men and non-parents are opting into in-office work at higher rates, which gives them that proximity bias advantage over workers who want to remain remote.
Those workers include moms, 83% of whom want more flexibility. Other under-represented groups preferring location flexibility are Asian/Asian American (88%); Black (83%) and Hispanic/Latinx (81%).
While workplace flexibility clearly suits workers, the survey went on to point out that because specific cohorts (who are already under–represented in the workforce) are taking wider advantage of it, this could actually lead to an entrenching of existing inequities.
There are other factors to consider as well. Stress levels rise as a result of managing a remote and in-office mix. A recent global study discovered that 80% of people leaders said it was exhausting for employees.
For the youngest workers who may have started their first job during the pandemic, going into the office is an essential part of the workplace puzzle. Being present with colleagues will help them master key face-to-face communication skills, learn about team building and help them to feel connected to, and understand the organization they are working for as a whole.