Tech firms have pulled back sharply on all-remote job listings this year. The share of posts for fully remote positions declined to 18.6% in May from a post-pandemic peak of 24% last August, according to the research arm of real estate services firm JLL and data from labor analytics firm Lightcast, which monitors thousands of on-line job sites.
Around the start of the pandemic, tech job postings and those of other office-using firms were more in line with all-remote positions, representing just under 5% of the roles posted. That diverged with tech growing more open to remote work; office-using occupations’ remote postings peaked in October at 12.4%, roughly half the top level seen in tech, before declining to 9.7% in May, according to the data.
While many companies are shifting to hybrid-work models with employees in the office two or three days a week, the declining number of job listings for remote positions suggests employers are exercising more negotiating power. “When a company advertises a job as remote, it’s hard to backtrack on that promise, so defaulting to in-office postings allows companies to have the flexibility,” Katy Redmond, a managing director of integrated portfolio services at JLL, wrote in an emailed response to questions from CFO Dive.
The decline in remote work across office-using industries comes as many finance executives are wrestling with how to properly size their offices and real estate costs in an era of remote work. It is also noteworthy because they are some of the companies who have been most open to remote work early in the pandemic.
Redmond asserts that the divergence between tech occupations and all office-using occupations is now closing, and anticipates that the pendulum will continue to swing back somewhat to at least some in-office work as companies see the value of collaboration, team building, and in-person onboarding even in more individual tech roles.
The change also reflects the downshift in the tech industry in recent months as layoffs have hit big and small firms across Silicon Valley that enjoyed better times early in the pandemic.
Because tech jobs were hard to fill and in high demand, and people in these roles were more tech savvy in using remote tools, it was easier to hire and onboard remote employees, according to Redmond. In addition, she said many were likely individual contributor roles where the thinking was that the person could be more self-contained in doing their job duties.
But as remote work continued, companies noticed productivity and onboarding challenges, she said.
“I don’t think remote work will go away — people will still be able to negotiate remote work at some of the companies shifting to more in-office postings, and most companies, of course, still have flexibility and hybrid policies. But it shows that CFOs/CEOs are seeing an essential place for time in the office,” Redmond wrote.
Among the big tech companies making waves with their stricter in-office work requirements is Amazon. In February, the e-commerce giant’s CEO Andy Jassy explained his plans to bring workers back to the office at least three days per week beginning May 1.
“It’s easier to learn, model, practice, and strengthen our culture when we’re in the office together most of the time and surrounded by our colleagues,” he wrote in a post on the company’s website.
But companies — even non-tech firms — are not all following suit. Harley-Davidson’s CEO Jochen Zeitz has said virtual meetings “democratize” the workplace, according to a Bloomberg report. And last year the iconic motorcycle maker announced plans to “repurpose” its 500,000-square foot Milwaukee, Wisconsin-headquarters building as it embraces remote work.