Remote vs. On-site Work: What Do Employees Prefer as COVID Subsides?

Businessman discussing work on video call with team members.
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The number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline in the United States — at least this week — but the pandemic’s impact on work life appears to be entrenched in the minds of many Americans. That’s especially true of remote work, which most employees want to keep doing even after COVID is no longer a major health threat, according to a new survey from Willis Towers Watson.

The WTW survey of more than 9,600 U.S. employees, conducted during December 2021 and January 2022 and released last week, found that 58% of respondents want to work remotely either most of the time (36%) or in a hybrid arrangement (22%) that splits time between remote and on-site work. Only 42% would rather work on-site all the time.

That’s the case even though employees have had varying experiences working remotely. About 70% of employees said working remotely helped them achieve a better work/life balance, while nearly two-thirds (65%) said their job performances were evaluated fairly. However, more than half (52%) said working remotely left them feeling disconnected from their teams, and 44% said they are worried that working remotely will negatively affect their careers.

The key advantages of working remotely were split between those who cited less time commuting (44%), those who saved money by not having to go on-site (37%), and those who were able to better manage household commitments by working from home (33%).

Not everyone looked favorably on the experience, though. One-third of respondents cited a lack of social interaction at work as a disadvantage of remote work, while 30% said remote work made it difficult to build new relationships with colleagues.

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In any case, it seems pretty clear that remote/hybrid work will be a much bigger part of the landscape than it was pre-pandemic. As GOBankingRates previously reported, about 30% of U.S. workers will have hybrid arrangements even after COVID subsides, according to a report from WFH Research, while about 15% will be fully remote. The WTW survey revealed similar trends.

“Most organizations recognize that a mix of in-person and remote work is pervasive and expected to stay,” said Tracey Malcolm, who serves as WTW’s global leader, Future of Work and Risk. “While some employees will embrace the new hybrid model, others will worry about the impact it will have in terms of their productivity, work/life balance, recognition and opportunities for advancement. The challenge for employers is to understand the concerns of their workers and map an effective path forward.”

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