The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21 completely disrupted business as usual. As a result, new ways of working were established, proved successful, and were normalized. Chief among these is remote work: What had once been a privilege before the pandemic became a necessity for business survival. And as time passed, remote work became normalized for both workers and employers.
While remote work offers employees more flexibility to get their jobs done where and when works best for them, it also requires companies to trust their employees. As pandemic precautions eased, many large companies — including some that had thrived with increased productivity during the pandemic — began calling workers to the office. However, this policy reversal has been greeted with mixed enthusiasm from workers.
New findings from YouGov’s Workforce Insights study reinforces the continuing importance that workplace flexibility holds for workers, even as more employers encourage or require working from the employer's location. Flexible working hours are considered very important by half (50%) of the American labor force, and 38% say flexible work location is very important in their job.
Job flexibility is more important to women than it is to men. More than half of women (57%) say having flexible working hours is very important in a job, whereas just 44% of men say the same, reflecting a 13-percentage-point gap. Women are also more likely than men to say that having a flexible working location is very important (44% versus 33%), revealing another large priority gap — of 11 points — in the American workforce.
When American workers are asked which working location would be acceptable to them, almost two-thirds (64%) want a hybrid work location or to remain fully remote. Just over one-third (36%) of American workers support a 100% schedule at their employer’s location. Hybrid work modes with either voluntary (43%) or required (41%) days at an employer’s location are more broadly acceptable than a 100% schedule at the employer’s location. Preferences may be shifting away from fully remote work, as more than half of the American labor force (53%) say that fully remote work would be unacceptable, whereas 47% say they would support this mode.
Women are more likely than men to say they want a flexible working location, with 72% of women but just 57% of men wanting some flexibility. Men are more likely than women to say that working all the time at their employer’s location is acceptable (43% vs. 28%) and that fully remote work would be unacceptable (57% vs. 50%). Given these gender differences, businesses that support flexibility with voluntary office work policies are likely to have the broadest positive engagement from workers.
— To learn more about YouGov Workforce Insights, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: Adobe Stock (mavoimages)
Methodology: YouGov Workforce Insights is an annual survey of the labor force in 21 countries. The U.S. survey is a nationally representative sample of 4,000 adults in the labor force. A total of 4,000 interviews were conducted, with 2,000 conducted between March 18, 2022 and April 7, 2022, and 2,000 conducted between July 15, 2022 and July 30, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults in the labor force. The margin of error is approximately 1.6% for the entire sample.