Half Of All Companies Plan To Require Full-Time In-Person Work Within A Year. Employees Have Other Ideas
Executives at companies around the world are preparing to push harder for in-person work despite offices dropping safety measures — all while a new coronavirus subvariant emerges.
A full 50% of employers either already require their workforce to be in the office full time or plan to do so in the next year, according to a new work habits survey from Microsoft reported by CNBC. The apparent increase in organizational will to make in-person work mandatory comes despite the labor market remaining historically tight and worker sentiment remaining firmly in favor of remote and/or hybrid work arrangements.
In the same Microsoft survey, 52% of employee respondents said they are considering switching to a remote or hybrid job. Employee occupancy at offices reached 40.5% of pre-pandemic figures in the week ending March 9, according to Kastle Systems' Back to Work Barometer, matching the peak reached before the omicron variant swept across the U.S., though far below pre-pandemic levels.
With top leadership and lower-level employees far apart on their work preferences, middle management is caught in between, with 54% of them saying that senior leadership is out of touch with employees and 74% saying they don't have the resources or influence to make changes for their subordinates, according to the Microsoft survey.
About 18% of people left their jobs in 2021, Microsoft's survey reports, and their reasons why are revealing: Personal well-being or mental health was tied for the most popular reason with work-life balance; each was cited by 24% of departing workers. Over 20% of respondents cited a lack of flexible work hours or location as their primary reason for departing, while 21% specifically cited a fear of catching Covid-19. Job offerings for remote positions on LinkedIn attract 2.6 times the views and nearly three times the applicants as in-person jobs, Microsoft reports.
Despite office landlords and occupants touting new hygiene and safety measures at their buildings, the dropping of mask and vaccine mandates by state and local governments has corresponded with marked decreases in office mask usage and some employers pulling back some workplace safety rules, The New York Times reports.
All the while, the omicron subvariant known as BA.2 has caused case counts to rise across Europe, a trend that has preceded case counts rising in the U.S. for each previous variant, the Times reports. With over half of employee respondents to Microsoft's survey saying they are unclear on when to come to the office and what purpose it serves, tension between the top and bottom of the corporate ladder figures to keep growing.