Why do workers want remote and hybrid work to continue?

A remote work employee working over an illustration of the world map.

2020 created a pivot in how and where people work. In a robust study of over 140,000 US workers (where data on remote and hybrid work environments is most readily available), Gallup discovered that in 2019, just 8% were fully remote and 32% were in hybrid working arrangements. By the end of 2022, 24% of employees were fully remote, and 53% were hybrid.

Hybrid work is any type of flexible work arrangement where employees spend their hours split between physical, in-office work, and remote work. This arrangement can occur in any type of percentage split, such as 50-50 or 80-20.

Hybrid work is now standard, hiring needs a remote first upgrade

The shift in how and where people work has significant implications for businesses. Recruiting, interviewing, and hiring talent that fits the ideal worker must change to adopt the needs of an increasingly remote-first work structure. Both employers and job seekers will consider how remote hybrid work changes their end of the process, as well.

For HR teams to create more effective recruitment strategies in this new age of remote work, a dive into emerging trends may be all that’s needed to get stakeholders fully invested. A hybrid work environment is now most people’s preferred working situation. Businesses that take a remote and hybrid-first approach to their recruitment and hiring practices can positively impact key business objectives, some of which often include increasing worker productivity, reducing turnover, and hitting DEI goals.

As noted in the Gallup study above, hybrid work was common prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but not the norm. Meanwhile, fully-remote work was largely uncommon. Both experienced significant jumps as a result of COVID safety measures. As the pandemic wanes, employees have had two big takeaways from their remote work experience:

An illustrated remote worker jumping from one lightbulb idea to another and an illustration of work/life balance provided by hybrid work schedules.

Cisco’s 2022 Global Hybrid Work Study offers several overwhelmingly positive insights about the shift to remote and hybrid work:

82 percent icon

of hybrid remote workers report being happier working from home

73 percent icon

stated that remote work increased their motivation to perform well in their role

64 percent icon

indicated that they’re less likely to take sick leave when working remotely

62 percent icon

indicated that they’re less likely to quit their current employer because of remote work flexibility

These numbers aren’t surprising and coincide with an important note from the Gallup study: only 9% of workers prefer to be fully onsite. Most (59%) want to enjoy the benefits and flexibility of a hybrid work model, while just under one-third prefer to remain fully remote.

Importantly, this desire for remote work is hitting almost every industry, including those not traditionally seen as remote-friendly, such as healthcare and education. McKinsey found that two-thirds of nurses are interested in providing care remotely in the future.

And on the education front, virtual schools are increasingly being floated as a way to fill staffing shortages. In both cases, hybrid remote models could be the solution for critical shortages causing a myriad of issues in care and achievement outcomes.

There’s far more data on peoples’ preferences for remote and hybrid work we could explore, but even this top-level highlight should help put understandably hesitant business leaders at ease. When properly accounted for, organizations stand to experience significant gains in worker productivity and retention with hybrid and fully-remote working models. When their commitment to remote work is expressed at the recruitment phase, they’re far also more likely to find the right workers to meet their hiring needs.

Who prefers remote and hybrid work?

There are probably very few surprises here, but organizations considering shifting to or maintaining a remote and hybrid work environment should understand the demographics of their existing and potential workforce. We can review that across three distinct areas:

  • The accelerating number of gig workers
  • The rise and demands of digital natives
  • Greater focus on reducing personal costs
An illustrated remote worker with a laptop in a forested mountainside.
An illustration showing gig workers are a type of remote and hybrid employees.

Gig worker pools expand

Let’s start with the explosion of gig workers. In a 2020 study, Upwork (one of the largest international gig economy marketplaces) discovered that 36% of U.S. workers were freelancing that year. That represented a 22% increase from 2019. Those numbers were later reconfirmed in a 2021 study.

When 2022 hit, Upwork uncovered a new trend: Nearly 60% of business hiring managers reported turning to remote freelance workers to fill their skills gaps. That certainly makes sense. As more workers shift to freelance work, either full or part-time, organizations are shifting their people strategies to include a larger number of gig workers.

Gig workers offer many distinct advantages to organizations, notably, in lower costs and increased productivity. Ernst and Young found that enterprise businesses use gig workers to control labor costs, while mid-sized businesses turn to gig workers to fuel growth.

Additionally, because gig workers are now distinctly remote, organizations can source talent from anywhere, easily opening up their talent network for on-demand task completion.

Digital natives are becoming a majority

The shift in remote work was a welcome experience for the digital natives, who now make up the largest portion of the workforce. A Citrix report on digital natives brings the numbers to bear: 2.4 billion people worldwide fall into the digital native category, comprised of what we often call Millennials and Gen Z.

The report also has some important takeaways for business leaders:

Illustration of a 'digital native' worker siting on a clock

Employers should take note here: flex working hours and remote work flexibility are not the same things. However, flexible working hours are significantly easier to offer when remote and hybrid work environments are centralized within the structure of the business.

Digital natives are not apprehensive about working at night or on weekends and putting in the hours. In fact, Microsoft found that remote workers are probably working too much, as the remote work flexibility compels many to log in after the typical 9-5 hours.

This is one of the reasons remote workers may be more productive; not only are they opening their laptops and putting in a few extra hours, but by cutting their commute times, they’re able to squeeze in more time for work into the day.

Importantly, this is why digital natives want remote work flexibility in the first place. They want to make work happen during times when they feel they can be the most productive instead of forcing productivity into a pre-defined time period—or being forced to go into the office and then come back home to do work at a time when they’re feeling more productive.

Workers want to reduce their cost of living

As remote work took hold during the pandemic, many workers saw the value in city life completely disappear. The change was dramatic enough that New York City, for example, experienced a 4% population decline. While some individuals and families eventually moved back, many of those moves were permanent.

People have taken note of how much more money they’re saving working remotely. The aforementioned Cisco study on remote work found that workers were saving an average of $8,000 USD by working from home. Nearly 70% said they’d take those cost savings into consideration when exploring potential positions from new employers.

Remote work is so important to many workers that a GoodHire survey found 61% would be willing to take a pay cut to maintain their flexible remote schedule. That doesn’t mean businesses should use pay cuts for remote work as a threat (although some have). However, it may offer an opportunity to reduce wage inflation through different compensation measures, such as using national market rates.

An illustration of a remote worker putting oversized novelty coins in a jar.

What does a hybrid remote work schedule look like?

Both companies and workers seeking to take on hybrid remote work should take note: there is no standardized format for this type of job arrangement.

That’s can be both good and bad, depending on your situation. We can examine this from both the employer’s and employee’s perspectives:

For employers, hybrid remote may take some trial-and-error

Employers switching to hybrid remote work schedules will ultimately advertise this job perk during the recruitment and interviewing process. However, your organization will need to determine what the structure of your hybrid remote work will look like before advertising it.

This way, you can have candid and fruitful discussions with candidates about how your hybrid remote model works. Having a specified and detailed structure to your model will avoid confusion and potential frustrations on the part of the employee if the reality of how hybrid remote works at your organization doesn’t match their assumptions.

Here are a few areas you’ll need to determine before you begin advertising your company’s hybrid remote approach:

Two illustrated workers looking at what a hybrid work schedule could look like.

Profile iconConsiderations for hybrid scheduling

What percentage of office/ remote split are employees allowed to take?

This can be anything. 50-50 is a common go-to, but ask yourself whether a 50-50 model is best for your organization and the needs of your employees. Explore other potential splits, such as 80-20, or 60-40. You may also consider leaving that decision up to employees, and allowing them “at-will” access to the office instead of a strict hybrid schedule.

Are you taking fairness into consideration?

How you structure your hybrid model should account for issues of fairness. For example, a strict 50-50 model might sound good on paper and be popular with senior leaders strongly tied to in-office work, but it could leave working parents struggling to find child care (the cost of which rose 41% since 2020).

Does your hybrid model boost or hamper employee effectiveness?

Some roles can be done remotely and without in-person collaboration. For others, that will be difficult or almost impossible. You will need to find a way to balance those needs. Importantly, you’ll need to find a way to communicate these variances in the recruitment and hiring process, as well.

For employees or job seekers, ask the right questions

As your employer makes the switch to remote work, or you investigate roles where hybrid remote work is available, don’t forget to get the details. Additionally, make sure to consider what type of hybrid remote model makes the most sense for the way you need to work and be productive.

Consider asking the following questions of your current or future employer:

A conceptual illustration of a hybrid worker showing work/life balance

Questions you should ask your current or future employer

What is the percentage split for hybrid remote?

Are there any geographic or time-zone restrictions for remote work?

Are there any software requirements, such as VPNs, required when working from locations with shared internet connections?

Are there specific hours in which I need to be available, or can my remote working hours be flexible?

Can I still take sick leave on days when I’m already working remotely?

Companies using a hybrid remote model instead of a fully-remote model usually have a reason for preferring some level of in-office work. Take note of this to avoid any confusion and potential frustration, and to give yourself more information to plan around.

How to find a hybrid remote job

If you’re in that 59% of workers who prefers hybrid remote flexibility, finding the right job may seem like a challenge. The number of hybrid remote jobs has dipped since the pandemic as more employers are calling workers back into the office. Still, many others have either chosen to stay fully remote or adopt hybrid remote working models for their teams.

To locate these roles, apply a few of these simple tricks:

Screen shot of a filter on a job search for remote work

Use filters on job sites

Most job sites now allow companies to identify whether their posted role is remote. These sites often, but not always, include a “remote” option in the job seekers’ search options. In cases where no filter is available, try typing “remote” in the search criteria, or in the “location” bar.

A screen shot of a scan for remote and hybrid work keyword

Scan for keywords

Pay attention to the words employers use in the job posting. After pulling up the job posting, a simple “CTRL+F” search will reveal whether the employer has utilized the “remote” or “hybrid” in the job ad. Don’t just limit your keyword search to those terms, however, as the employer may have used common synonyms instead.

Screen shot of a google search for remote work terms

Perform a Google search

Google scrapes job advertisements from many different job sites. You can simplify the search process by typing a job search into Google and using “remote” or “hybrid remote” in the search. For example, “hybrid remote medical coding jobs.” Specificity does matter here, so if you’re after hybrid remote jobs and not fully-remote jobs, make sure to include “hybrid” in the search term.

2 ways employers can repair their remote hiring strategy

Understanding why your hiring practice needs a remote-centric upgrade is the first step. The second, and arguably most important step, is considering how to apply that knowledge to an effective recruitment and hiring strategy.

Everything discussed above should be the guiding text for the changes you make to your recruitment process. As you start to develop a strategy around the needs and wants of remote workers, consider the two changes you can make in the short term that will have the fastest positive results:

  1. The signals you’re sending to potential job applicants
  2. The tools you’re using to recruit, interview and hire

As we offer some insight into each of these, consider one important factor: remote work frees your business from traditional geographic restraints to hiring.

Organizations can widen their search to anywhere they can legally hire. Because top talent lives anywhere, centering the recruitment process around remote environments helps increase the potential talent pool and reduce the time required to find talent and fill open positions.

A global map showing potential distances between remote workers and their offices

Sending the right signals to job applicants

Job seekers have become exceptionally savvy at reading and interpreting job advertisements. Gurus across the web, from Tik Tok to Twitter to Reddit, regularly share advice with job seekers on how to navigate the language of job ads to find the type of employer that matches their needs, and how to attract the attention of recruiters.

Long story short here: Don’t be vague in your job advertisements or recruitment messages. Potential applicants are scanning job ads for the keywords that matter most to them. They won’t respond to your recruiters’ LinkedIn DMs or hit “Apply” on your job advertisements if you aren’t including the words they’re looking for.

If you’ve taken to heart everything we’ve mentioned above, you should have a good idea of what those words might be. They include (but are not limited to):

Remote work icon

Remote work

Hybrid Icon

Hybrid work

Virtual Icon

Virtual

Home office icon

Home office

Work at home icon

Work at home

Work from home Icon

Work from home

Distributed Icon

Distributed

Flexible Icon

Flexible (or flex scheduling)

Work anywhere Icon

Work anywhere

You may also consider less common words, such as “telework” or “telecommuting.”

Once you have a list of keywords to use, incorporate them thoroughly within your remote job advertisements, and have your recruiters emphasize these words within messages sent to desired applicants. Don’t leave any doubt in potential applicants’ minds that this is a remote position.

One strategy that you may see taking hold is putting the word “remote”, or similar terms in the title of the job advertisement. This strategy will go a long way to capturing job seekers’ attention and result in a higher volume of individuals clicking your advertisements. It’s a subtle yet effective way to apply the type of search engine optimization strategies that digital and content marketers use.

Consequently, when your job ads are indexed by Google, it also means they’ll show up on Google searches matching that search criterion (a big plus for increasing the number of potential applicants finding your job and applying).

Using the right recruitment tools

Attracting the right talent to your open roles is only half the battle. If you promise remote or hybrid work but don’t have a hiring process that’s also built on the benefits and structures remote workers want, you’ll quickly lose the confidence of your top applicants.
When applicants hit apply, they’ll have several expectations that you’ll need to address:

Flexible interview scheduling that respects time zone differences

Managing bias throughout the hiring process

Regular and fast communication at every step of the process

The data here is pretty stark: 92% of job applicants never finish the application. Simply improving your applicant tracking system (ATS) alone will boost the number of applicants you ultimately get coming through the system. But an ATS will help in other ways, as well, including removing or significantly reducing bias and streamlining and automating communications.

Hybrid remote interviewing requires a unique set of tools

A common problem with taking a hybrid remote working model is that some of your interviewees will be met in person, while others will be engaged remotely. This difference can create standardization problems, as those receiving a different type of interview experience may have an unfair advantage.

Accounting for this, your company should also consider the tools you’re using to conduct interviews within a hybrid-remote framework. Those tools should allow you to standardize the interview process to provide the same experience for in-person and remote candidates.

Pencil illustration

Considerations for what you’ll need to account for in this interviewing variance may include:

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Scheduling: Is scheduling automated for both in-person and remote candidates?

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Consistency: Are all candidates receiving the same interviewing experience? Additionally, are all candidates’ interviews free of potential or hidden biases that could result in giving different candidates preferential or less preferential treatment during the interview?

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Coordination: Are all aspects of the interview process coordinated among the hiring team, such that each candidate, regardless of where they interview or who they interview with? Additionally, are interviewers also capable of logging into interviews from any location?

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Bias checks: Are unconscious bias checks incorporated into the interview process?

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Data analytics: Are you tracking and analyzing data to verify that all of the above is true?

An illustration of job applicants hiding behind masks to convey the potential for bias

A bias-free hiring practice will send the right signal to many of your minority applicants. Case in point: Minority workers overwhelmingly prefer remote and hybrid work environments, as they say, it’s helped them avoid the type of microaggressions that made in-office work miserable. If your recruitment and hiring process is not bias-free or has variations in how the interviews are conducted, you’re likely to lose potential candidates during this process.

It’s easy to assume that your process is already bias-free. Yet one study found that minority applicants who “whitened” their resumes got twice as many interviews. The problem is often not malicious biases on the part of recruiters and hiring managers, but unconscious ones. ATS software, by parsing for skills and qualifications, can help remove the potential for unconscious bias.

Meanwhile, when your ATS automates communications, applicants don’t have to wait to hear back at each step of the process. And it reduces the added burden on your hiring team, who can put their efforts toward other parts of the process.

The fact that recruiting and interviewing software significantly reduce the cost of recruiting candidates is a bonus.

Remote and hybrid remote requires a swift change in hiring practices

Workers’ preferences for remote work, combined with a global talent shortage, means companies must align themselves behind remote and hybrid work environments. That starts by understanding why workers are opting for remote work in the first place.

There are generational differences to consider as part of this, as well as demographic ones. Applying this to your recruitment strategy leads directly to attracting more talent, better quality applicants that are more aligned to your candidate profile, and faster hires.

Ultimately, as you expand your talent pool, hire faster, and hire better, you reduce turnover, increase employee satisfaction and productivity, and create a more diversified workforce. It’s a winning situation for workers and employers and an acknowledgment that we’re now well within the future of work.

A happy and engaged workforce reacting positively to remote and hybrid remote work environments.