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Wednesday, October 25, 2023
Survey: Bleak News for Remote Workers
By Todd Campbell
Remote work, the viable pandemic option, is now a workplace perk for many people – but more and more employers are requiring a return to the office.
NEW YORK – Covid-era alternative work solutions have come under fire as businesses increasingly deploy a carrot-and-stick approach to convincing employees to return to offices.
Technology titan Meta Platforms (META), which owns Facebook, threatened poor performance reviews if workers failed to attend offices three times weekly. JP Morgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon recently suggested workers uncomfortable with returning to offices should look for employment elsewhere.
Workers don’t like the idea of giving up the flexibility afforded by remote work, but a recent survey shows that these workers may face an uphill battle if they hope to continue working from home.
Remote work loses its luster
Companies big and small rushed to offer flexible alternative work schedules like remote and hybrid work during Covid. Remote work quickly became a key benefit used to fill jobs created by those who took early retirement and newly created positions in response to demand growth fueled by easy-money policies.
Remote work initially appeared to be a win/win for companies and employees. It allowed businesses to source job candidates nationally rather than locally and sometimes save money by closing expensive offices. Meanwhile, workers could live in the suburbs rather than crowded cities and save money by eliminating expensive childcare costs.
Unfortunately, the love affair with remote work has soured over the past year.
Businesses, from technology to financial services, have rolled back remote work, citing a need for increased collaboration and greater productivity. Many companies have likely sought to reduce the number of remote workers as part of layoff plans or to fill otherwise vacant office spaces.
Businesses are winning the return-to-office battle
Worker surveys suggest employees prefer remote work. However, they’re losing the battle with employers demanding more office face time.
The Census Bureau’s latest Household Pulse Survey shows remote work has reached a new post-pandemic low, with declines seen in all 50 states, reports Bloomberg.
The survey showed that fewer than 26% of households include someone who works remotely at least one day weekly. That’s a significant drop-off from the high of 37% in 2021. A total of 31 states had remote work rates above 33% at the peak. Now, only seven states exceed that hurdle.
States with the highest percentages of remote workers are typically Democratic states, mainly on the east and west coasts. Middle America and the South boast some of the lowest rates of remote work.
There’s also a more significant push for a return to office (RTO) in major metro markets where office building valuations are tumbling because of empty offices. During its recent quarterly conference call, Goldman Sachs (GS) told investors that it reduced valuations on office properties in its portfolio by 50%.
The impact of lower valuations on financial companies could contribute to the stricter return to office demands. Big banks like JP Morgan have been among the most vocal in demanding RTO, and they’re also heavily exposed to commercial real estate.
For instance, in addition to loans held on commercial properties, JP Morgan is building a new multibillion-dollar headquarters in New York City.