April 25, 2024

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Belief in-person workers will advance more in careers keeps rising

4 min read
Belief in-person workers will advance more in careers keeps rising

Nearly three years out from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the concept of transitioning from remote or hybrid employment back to mostly in-person work remains a major point of contention between employees and their bosses. While recent office occupancy data has shown that employers may have hit at least a short-term plateau in efforts to bring workers back with greater frequency, the percentage of workers who believe that in-person employees will enjoy better career opportunities keeps rising.

That’s according to the latest Workforce Survey from CNBC and SurveyMonkey, which finds a record number of employees (56%) expressing the belief that in-person workers will have the opportunity to advance further than workers who are hybrid or fully remote. In October 2021, only 47% percent of workers believed that in-person employees would have better career outcomes.

The spike in this survey finding comes as major employers push for more in-office days from workers, and some firms that had seemed fully on-board with remote work do about-faces on Covid policies, such as Meta Platforms.

“During the early days of the Covid pandemic, when it felt like everyone was working from home, the tradeoff might have been minimal – but now a clear majority of workers in our survey say they think in-person workers will have better career opportunities at their company,” said Laura Wronski, senior research science manager at Momentive.

There are key demographic distinctions in the data, according to survey, which was fielded by Momentive’s SurveyMonkey platform between May 23-31 among nearly 9,000 workers in the U.S. 

For example, women and gender-nonconforming or unlisted individuals were less likely than their male counterparts to believe remote work has an impact on career advancement. Level of belief varied by race as well, with a higher percentage of white people believing in-person workers would have better outcomes than their remote peers.

The recent push from major employers to mandate more in-person days might seem to indicate that the balance of power is shifting, and workers are more inclined to return to primarily in-person work.

Meta Platforms, which had been among the most vocal supporters of work-from-anywhere during Covid, has significantly altered its stance. Google’s top HR officer told employees Wednesday that it will be cracking down on employees who aren’t adhering to the hybrid work schedule, and will include office attendance in performance reviews and track badge data. Last month, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, said it expected employees to be back four days a week starting in September.

“Companies have been trying to bring back their workers to the office for years, with minimal success, but that might finally be changing,” Wronski said. “Many workers may have been in denial about what they are giving up by working from home, missing out on those in-person connections in the office that lead to raises and promotions,” she added.

There are reasons for workers to be more worried about challenging management over work policies. Some of the names in the headlines have been among the most aggressive job cutters over the past year, led by Meta and the tech sector. And while jobs are still plentiful, based on the latest JOLTS data showing 10 million-plus openings — and job growth and wage growth continue to defy expectations of a more severe downturn — year-over-year there are indications that Federal Reserve policy is beginning to cool the labor market. The latest jobless claims data released on Thursday showed claims to be the highest since October 2021.

But Layla O’Kane, senior economist at labor market research firm Lightcast, says that other labor market data continues to tell a different story when it comes to the in-person push. She said return-to-office has been dominating the headlines, but not the job postings.

“Definitely there are workers that are experiencing those mandates, but by and large, we’re not seeing remote work numbers plummet in terms of postings, and I think that there are quite a few companies that are still fully hiring remotely, and also considering expanding their remote opportunities to try to get through some of the labor shortages that they’re facing.” 

According to the CNBC survey, 37% of workers say they’ve seriously considered quitting their job in the last three months (steady from 36% in the prior survey last November). But recent national labor market data does indicate that the peak in worker confidence about finding a new job has been passed, and the “Great Resignation” has ended. The share of monthly quits (i.e., voluntary departures by workers) relative to total employment is now roughly on par with the monthly pre-pandemic average in 2019.

To join the CNBC Workforce Executive Council, apply at cnbccouncils.com/wec.

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