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Job Seekers Crave Remote Work, Even as Remote Jobs Decline


Job seekers are still very interested in remote work several years after the COVID-19 pandemic made it a temporary necessity, but the number of remote-work opportunities continues to dwindle as employers increasingly ask new hires to report to the office.

Various measures show the number of remote job postings is decreasing. The share of job postings on Indeed advertising remote or hybrid work options fell from a peak of 10.3 percent in February 2022 to 8.3 percent in December 2023.

“There has been a significant decrease in remote job openings over the last six months of more than 20 percent,” said Evan Sohn, the CEO of Aura, a workforce insights platform founded by Bain & Company. “This trend signals that employers are altering their post-COVID strategy, gradually shifting back to the traditional onsite work model. This move may serve as a solution to common challenges associated with remote work, such as maintaining employee engagement, managing time differences and ensuring effective communication.”

There’s been a renewed push in corporate America to limit remote work as more CEOs openly express their disdain for the model and argue that collaboration, engagement and productivity all suffer in the absence of in-person work. Even the largest employer in the country—the federal government—is feeling the pressure: The Biden administration has directed Cabinet secretaries and agency heads to submit their action plans for bringing their workforces back into the office as soon as possible. 

Remote postings are down, but the context for the reduction matters, said Daniel Culbertson, a senior economist with the Indeed Hiring Lab. “It may be less of a signal that employers are changing their minds on remote work and more a reflection of the kinds of jobs most impacted by the labor market slowdown,” he said. “The jobs that are typically the most remote-friendly are also the jobs that are posting with far less frequency this year compared to years prior.”

Job postings in technology and other white-collar sectors have significantly declined as employers in these industries have pulled back on hiring. “A high share of these postings tends to mention remote work, weighing on the overall trend,” Culbertson said.

But he added that in the case of software developers, where the share of remote jobs fell on Indeed from a high of 44 percent in May 2023 to 36 percent in December 2023, employers may also be looking to bring more workers back into the office, at least on a part-time basis. 

Notably, the share of remote job postings on Indeed mentioning hybrid work peaked in January 2023 at 31.4 percent, before falling to 28.4 percent in December 2023.

On the other hand, job seekers are still highly interested in remote and hybrid work.  

“Remote and hybrid work has proven itself to be one of the longer-lasting workplace trends to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Culbertson said. “The share of job searches on Indeed featuring remote work keywords has cooled slightly but [remains] near recent peaks.

“It is too early to say if these remote work trends have settled into their long-term trajectory,” he continued. “What is more likely is that some employers may yet grapple with a return to office, while other employers and workers settle into the flexible work arrangement that best suits their needs.”

New Hires More Likely to Work in Person

A recent survey of U.S. workers by workplace analytics platform Perceptyx found that the percentage of workers in remote and hybrid roles has remained stable over the past two years—with new hires being the exception.

In 2022, employees at every level of seniority worked from the office at roughly the same rates. But by 2023, the share of new employees—those with a tenure of one year or less—working from the office rose from 62 percent to 69 percent while other groups showed more modest increases in in-person work, or even declines. 

“Employers may be phasing out remote and hybrid roles for new hires,” said Emily Killham, senior director of people analytics, research and insights at Perceptyx. “We’ve all heard stories about businesses telling their employees to show up in person or lose their jobs. But it looks like most companies aren’t pushing their existing staff to come back to the office. Those numbers have stabilized. The return-to-office trend is largely being driven by new hires.”

Killham said that rather than forcing the return-to-office issue with existing staff, it’s much easier to change the job description from remote or hybrid to in-office when an employee moves on.

“Despite evidence that hybrid work can improve morale and productivity, the ‘officism’ bias persists,” she said. “As new employees join their in-office peers, leaders should continue to listen to the perceptions of those who joined in a remote or hybrid environment to ensure an equitable experience for all. It seems clear that flexible work is here to stay, and how employers handle it will make all the difference.”


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