Take a moment to Google the phrase “are we returning to the office” and set a filter for the past year on this search. What you’ll end up reading is a seesaw of “will we, won’t we” pieces reflecting the state of the workplace as it has varied throughout the year.
Some pieces reflect upon the formal announcement President Biden made in March 2022 urging Americans to return to in-person work. However, another spike in U.S. COVID cases in May 2022 largely buried this announcement. To date, there has yet to be statistical evidence of a widespread return to the office environment
Endless articles about remote work and declarations about how the shift is here to stay were also published in 2022. But, to some extent, it would appear some remote roles are disappearing. In their place are suggested hybrid positions: where new hires may work from home a few days but be required to come into a physical office at least two, or more, days each week.
Does this mean remote work is coming to an end and we’ll need to be back in the office again? Let’s examine the situation.
Are Remote Jobs Really Disappearing?
The short answer to this question is yes — remote positions did experience a dip in 2022.
On December 6, 2022, LinkedIn published its roundup of “41 Big Ideas That Will Change Our World In 2023.” A similar list of 29 ideas was published by LinkedIn in 2021. Surprisingly, the list did not mention much by way of working from home other than to say both hybrid and remote work were prolific and viable workplace options.
In 2022, LinkedIn reported a LinkedIn Economic Graph analysis did find remote job postings are dipping. Only one in seven job postings shared on LinkedIn in the U.S. offered remote work as an option in October 2022.
But here’s the flipside: LinkedIn data revealed remote postings attract more than half of all job applications.
Has there been a dip in remote jobs? Yes. But has the demand for remote work gone away entirely? Absolutely not. Working professionals, especially those who were able to work remotely amid COVID-19, have found greater flexibility and work-life balance in remote work. There is still a need for remote work because it does more than widen the talent pool — it meets talent where they are.
Are We Going Back to the Office Soon?
The answer to this question is not going to be the same, company to company. What could happen, though, is the end of a traditional headquarters as we know it.
For decades, the corporate office has embodied a very specific presence. Some corporations exist in skyscrapers situated in the heart of a bustling bicoastal city hub like New York or Los Angeles. Others have taken a more modern approach of the office as a campus. A major corporation may situate itself in a city like Menlo Park or Glendale, just outside of a major city, and allow employees to walk from building to building as if they were heading to class at a university.
The number two big idea LinkedIn posits for 2023 is we will start to see an end to both the skyscraper and campus corporate headquarters. This idea is backed with data from major corporations, including Meta and Salesforce, which have been conducting mass layoffs throughout 2022.
In a gradually remote and hybrid working world, the idea of a return to the office is expensive for both the employer and employee. Employers would need to pay for the lease on the building and any other arrangements for construction on other properties. Meanwhile, employees would resume paying for various commuting costs, like gas, to ensure they arrive at work on time.
What Happens if There’s No More Office?
LinkedIn suggests the big idea is when there’s not an expansive headquarters, there may be smaller office spaces instead. Depending on the number of employees who decide to come into work each week, this may be the most financially cost-effective arrangement for all team members.
If there’s no smaller office, employers may choose to redesign work based on their needs and terms. In April 2022, Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, sent out a now-widespread company email about how Airbnb was officially a company where employees can live and work from anywhere.
The Airbnb design was contingent on a few factors: employees can work from home or the office, they may move anywhere in the country and keep their compensation, and they can travel and work around the world. Airbnb employees would also meet up regularly for gatherings and work in a coordinated manner together.
In 2023 and beyond, what we may see is not necessarily workplace extremes. It is not likely remote work will 100% end. Nor is it likely we will see a 100% return to the office. What is much more possible, and beneficial for all, is companies that determine their own live-and-work design and tailor it appropriately to their needs — and the needs of its talented staff.
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