41% of remote workers never want to go back to the office – up from 29% in January

Woman sitting at desk behind her laptop and talking with somebody on the phone while working from home
  • An August survey from PwC finds 41% of a group of remote workers want to stay fully remote.
  • This is up from January when only 29% of people in this group said they didn’t want to return to the office.
  • PwC’s Bhushan Sethi said companies need to prevent “remote work inequity” if some employees choose to stay home.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the pandemic drags on, some employees are getting more attached to the flexibility of remote work – and they don’t want to lose it when their offices reopen.

PwC surveyed 1,007 full-time and part-time employees, and found preferences around remote work vary. When looking at a subset of workers, something has changed in the seven months since its last survey: Those who wanted to be fully remote was 29% in January 2021, but this share has increased to 41% just a few months later in the August survey.

August findings include:

  • 19% want to be fully remote “after COVID-19 is no longer a concern”
  • 22%, said they want to only work remotely one day or less
  • 17% said they want to work remotely three days a week.

The Delta variant and vaccine mandates are on people’s minds

Bhushan Sethi, the joint global leader of PwC’s people and organization practice, told Insider “it doesn’t necessarily surprise” him that this group of remote workers said “‘we want to have optionality, we have become comfortable with the lifestyle choice’, and maybe they have an understanding employer who’s also comfortable with them working remote.”

People may also not be thinking of returning to the office because of ongoing concerns regarding coronavirus or the Delta variant. Some companies, like Facebook, have pushed back office reopenings. Some companies are also requiring employees to be vaccinated.

“The fact that two-thirds of employees are also saying they welcome a vaccine mandate, that could actually create more confidence for some people to come back if their firm has mandated a vaccine,” Sethi said. One Gallup survey found that 36% of employees said they strongly favor their employer mandating vaccines although 29% strongly opposed this.

Flexibility is one of the hottest job perks these days

Flexibility, like the option to work remotely, doesn’t just benefit workers but also employers. In Glassdoor’s Workplace Trend report, the job site highlighted “offering flexible work schedules can be a low-cost way to help retain employees facing challenging child care and other home responsibilities.”

Flexibility in working hours and whether someone can work remotely is a high priority for many workers after experiencing for more than a year what it’s like to not have to commute every day and getting used to attending virtual meetings from kitchen tables and bedrooms. It’s also an attractive benefit for job seekers. Surveys from Bankrate and Indeed show people are looking for work offering flexibility.

“It’s clear that if an employer doesn’t offer remote work, and whether that’s full-time remote or whether that’s hybrid work, there’s going to be a disadvantage from a talent perspective,” Sethi said.

Companies have to solve ‘remote work inequity’

Among the companies executives surveyed in August by PwC, 33% said their companies’ fall plans include people working in the office, fully remote, or a hybrid model. A smaller share, 18%, said they will have people in the office and offer a hybrid model but no full remote option. Sethi said it’s important to make sure that everyone is getting the same opportunities, promotions, and feel included no matter where they work.

“Organizations that want to commit to having people either fully remote or remote for some significant time have to manage this term remote work inequity where people feel they don’t belong, that they don’t get favored in terms of progression, or even daily routines, meetings, opportunities that people have in particular companies,” Sethi said.

Companies, he added, need to train leaders on how to be inclusive and to track data, whether that be through employee surveys or some other way, to make sure both employees at home and in the office are getting equal opportunities and treated fairly.