The virtual interview between Priscilla and the Abel recruiter reached an awkward silence. Priscilla’s face on screen was troubled and lost in thought. This reaction was to the question, “Do you need or want to work entirely remote, hybrid, or in an office?”
The type of accounting position that Priscilla was seeking could be successfully filled by someone in any of those conditions. Indeed, Abel Personnel had some openings where the employers had specific office attendance requirements in mind, and other positions in which clients were flexible on workplace location for the candidate who was the right fit. But what did Priscilla want or need?
“I’m not sure,” Priscilla finally offered. “Yes, I’d love to work from home with occasional visits to the office as needed, but is that the best move to advance my career?”
The recruiter was the one now silent in thought. This was not a new question for her. The key was to offer an answer that did not pressure her applicant to agree to work on-site full or part-time, only to be unhappy a few months into the new position.
“That seems to be the big post-pandemic question,” the recruiter first acknowledged. “And of course, there is no right answer for every position, every person, or every company. So, let’s start with some survey results, okay?”
The recruiter then offered the following data from the end of 2022:
- 48% of workers report they are working completely in-person, 28% are working on a hybrid schedule, and 24% are fully remote.
- 51% of female employees said they work fully on-site, compared with 44% of men.
- Employed parents of children under the age of 18 were more likely to work a hybrid schedule (33% vs. 24%), while the majority of those without school-age children work on site full-time (51% vs. 43%).
Next, the recruiter presented a survey of worker attitudes:
- 46% feel pressured to work during their time-off.
- 44% would be willing to take a pay cut if it meant they had greater freedom to work remotely.
- 40% are worried about layoffs at their company in the next six months.
That last statistic, worry about layoffs, might be the most telling. When labor was scarce, companies were more open to accepting new hires on the employee’s terms. As the possibility of recession looms in certain industries, those employers might choose to layoff staff whose remote work does not appear to meet the company’s ideal, despite individual performance.
Priscilla nodded at this, but the recruiter knew these numbers were not offering the direction sought. The facts of life for employment now offered were more qualitative than quantitative:
- Advancement: Employees on-site have a higher probability to be promoted because they are observed performing their job more often and interact more often with their bosses and senior managers who will have input on promotions.
- Tap Someone on the Shoulder: In-office work allows for the opportunity to seek quick advice on a question or process from someone nearby in a way that might not occur by phone call, messaging, email, or video.
- Random Interactions: These hallway or “watercooler” conversations often pass along information that might not have otherwise happened to the interacting employees. “Running into you, it now occurs to me that I have some information that might benefit you”, or maybe”You are the person who could assist our team with this problem…”
- The Hybrid Non-Solution: Scheduling some employees to be back some days of the week can be a disappointing compromise. A half-empty office lacks the vibrancy that is achieved when the team is together in one place. It can feel like the day after a big layoff.
The recruiter finished her presentation by noting that those companies that have data, or perhaps a gut feeling that having everyone back in the office would be most productive, were now introducing office experiences that just could not be achieved at home. These might be as routine as speakers or hands-on activities that occurred pre-pandemic. Some have offered additional enrichment through book clubs or interest clubs. Post-pandemic flexibility then focuses on adjusting the in-office work schedule to meet individual employees’ needs rather than rigid start and end times, the same for all five days a week.
Priscilla’s eyes widened at the last description. “What I really loved about the jobs when I worked from home was having more flexibility in balancing my work schedule with my life schedule. And I agree that the comradery of an office is always better than what you achieve online. If I could find that in a position now, I would be open to wherever my employer wants me to work.”
With that direction, the recruiter shared her screen, displaying three job descriptions offering the desired flexibility.
- American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor, “Remote Versus In-Office,” January 19, 2023.