Job Hunting
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Is “return to work” finally happening?

December 14, 2023

As recruiters, we’re often asked by our candidates - “is this job remote?”

Our candidates are curious for a number of reasons - some wish to be remote so they can have a flexible schedule, or they’ve moved to cities outside main tech hubs. And then some are eager to go into an office, meet their coworkers, and leave their home offices. 

For workers who want to remain fully remote, forever though - their options may be a bit more limited. 

As of the end of 2023, 24% of the roles we’re recruiting for at RFS are on-site, 52% are hybrid, and just 24% are remote - a stark contrast to 2022 and 2021 when a majority of our roles were remote. 

So, is the return to work finally happening? Here’s some reasons why we think it is - but why the RTO world is going to be different from what many of us expect. 

First of all, we don’t think hybrid work isn’t going away anytime soon - which will appease those who like remote work. Over half the roles we hire for are hybrid, which for most of our clients means only 2-3 days in the office each week. For several reasons, a hybrid work model is the perfect compromise - employees get to keep some flexibility and avoid a daily commute, and managers still have weekly face time. Also - many managers are likely to be flexible with employees if they have an extended period of time when they need to be away, such as caring for a relative or spending time with family in another state - which means hybrid employees will still be able to do many of the things they enjoyed about working remotely.

There are a lot of people who want to go into the office, at least some of the time. Not everyone needs to be best friends with their coworkers, but studies show that Americans spend more time alone in their homes than ever before - and this isn't the healthiest. Over the last 20 years, the portion of free time people spend alone has jumped up to 50%, and many of these people report lower well-being. Workplaces can be a great way to alleviate some of that alone time, even if you're not hanging out with coworkers after hours.

RTO isn’t going to apply to everyone, which will make the transition easier. We predict the days are over for requiring ALL  roles to be in office. Time together is most important for teams working on large, physical projects, certain types of engineers, or startups who need to move quickly. For people who work independently and may only have 1-2 meetings a week at most - putting a desk for them in the office may not be the solution. 

A culture of in-person collaboration is too valuable to most companies. The word “culture” is used in a lot of different ways, but many companies have some element of collaboration built into the way they work (which they often communicate to employees). Also worth noting - CEOs are fans of strong culture. Many believe that culture accounts for a hefty chunk of their market value, and studies have shown that organizations with strong cultures have greater revenue. 

The newest generation to enter the workforce - Gen Z - wants to work in the office. There are probably a decent number of Gen Z’ers who prefer remote work too, but many of the early career professionals we speak to want to be in-person. Working in an office often allows more opportunities for feedback, mentorship and to learn from older colleagues - which working from a spare room at home can't replicate.

Candidates or employers - what are your thoughts on returning to work?

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