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The pushback against remote and hybrid work is showing up in job ads. According to some new data, tech job ads that offer remote and hybrid work are steadily declining.
There is no one reason for the decline in job ad mentions. Some employers have reversed work-from-home options and want employees back in the office full time or most of the time. Other employers still offer job candidates hybrid and remote work options, but might be more selective about who gets it.
What is clear is that in August 2022, more than 25% of all tech jobs offered remote or hybrid work options. That was the peak, according to industry group CompTIA's data. In July and August of this year, job ads with a work-from-home option fell below 20%.
Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA, acknowledged the challenges in pinpointing the exact reasons behind the surge in remote and hybrid job postings last year. Despite this, he said that while many job advertisements don't explicitly offer the option to work from home, employers might present this flexibility privately to potential hires.
Employers might position a work-from-home option "as a nonmonetary perk to entice candidates" during the recruiting process, or they might set an expectation of in-office work with the possibility of remote and hybrid work based on employee performance, Herbert said.
Although job ads citing remote and hybrid work are dropping, they are still well above pre-COVID-19 levels. In February 2020, one month before businesses began shuttering offices in response to the virus, only 4% of tech job ads mentioned work from home.
The exact percentage of people who work at least some of the time in the office is up for debate. The last government snapshot of work-at-home trends, in August and September 2022, found that 27.5% of private sector workers were either fully remote or hybrid workers.
A recent paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), based on a survey undertaken with Gallup, found that more than half of all working people worked from home at some point. But that survey was done in late 2020, about six months after the pandemic shutdown. Its authors argue that the government is undercounting the number of people working from home, according to the NBER study.
Tim GardnerAssociate professor of management, Utah State University
Tim Gardner, associate professor of management at Utah State University, pointed to the problems in the commercial office market as a strong indication that people working in large cities are working remotely. Indeed, Kastle Systems, which studies key card and fob data used to enter commercial office buildings, said occupancy remains just under 50%. This includes all occupations, not just tech.
But Gardner said there might be multiple reasons why the mention of remote and hybrid work in job ads is declining.
"Large employers have a vast amount of experience with large numbers of people working remotely, and they don't like it," Gardner said. He said they are losing the social interaction, collaboration, informal monitoring and productivity. And by not offering remote work in job ads, they are trying to discourage it or being more selective.
Gardner believes remote work is a bad idea. He said companies hire employees because they can monitor and manage them more closely and regularly than contract employees.
Remote work sometimes works, Gardner said, and several types of employers stand to gain by offering it. That includes small and midsize companies in less populated areas, which can hire nationally by offering remote work.
Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.