Apr 9, 2024 - Business

More Americans now prefer hybrid over fully remote work, survey finds

Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Axios Visuals

For the first time since the pandemic, more workers prefer hybrid work arrangements than fully remote setups, according to a new report.

Why it matters: Hybrid work is emerging as the clear winner in the post-pandemic work world, a surprise from a few years ago when it seemed like a fully at-home revolution was underway.

Hybrid workers are happier: Their "engagement" with work increased in 2024 from the previous year, while it fell for those fully in-person or fully at home, per Morning Consult, which has been surveying workers on the topic since 2022.

Zoom in: This is a conversation mainly confined to white-collar knowledge workers. Most people still work in person, though that doesn't mean they like it.

  • Morning Consult surveyed 3,389 employed adults in January. The vast majority — 65% — worked in person. Yet only 46% preferred in-person work.
  • The majority of respondents preferred either hybrid or remote arrangements, with hybrid gaining an edge for the first time this year.
  • 29% said they preferred a hybrid arrangement, compared with 23% who chose fully remote. In 2022, 29% preferred remote and 27% preferred hybrid.

The big picture: Full-time 9-to-5 office work hasn't made much sense since the advent of the internet made it possible to stay connected to the office all the time, no matter where you were physically located.

  • But it took a pandemic to shake employers and workers out of the sit-at-your-desk-all-the-time mindset.
  • Now, even as more companies call people back to the office, the idea that everyone will go back five days a week is pretty much dead.
  • People want flexibility. That might mean coming to the office for a few hours for meetings and spending the rest of the day at home, or just working at home one day a week.

State of play: The change in office culture has widened the Overton window regarding what's possible in the workplace, raising interest in a four-day workweek.

  • Last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) got some attention when he introduced a bill that would make a 32-hour workweek standard in the U.S. That came after the United Autoworkers sought a shorter workweek in their contract with the car manufacturers.
  • Only a few companies have tried this, so far. Just last week, a logistics firm called Fuel Transport announced it would move its employees to a 35-hour, four-day schedule — without reducing pay.

The intrigue: Already, workers are working fewer hours on Friday — pushing people a little closer to a four-day setup, as the WSJ reported.

  • For some knowledge workers, that could be tied to the flexibility of hybrid arrangements — sign off early on Friday, but make up for it over the weekend, for example.

The bottom line: Pure remote work is declining. Only 21% of respondents were working at home in 2024, compared to 27% in 2022, per Morning Consult.

  • Employees don't want to be fully in-office anymore — the idea "riles them up," says Amy He, head of industry analysis at Morning Consult.
  • Hybrid has emerged as a way for employers to meet people in the middle.

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