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The Work-From-Home Debate Continues, but What is Right?

When speaking to individuals in the hiring process, they often ask me, "is this position remote?". Interestingly enough, they don't ask if it is hybrid because the majority of the energy industry has a hybrid schedule. Many have 9/80s as well and flexible schedules; flexible either in what time they start and end, as well as what days they are in the office. Though some companies have set days for their hybrid days, and some have ½ day Fridays or don't have the 9/80 anymore.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed how we work, with many employees working from home for the first time. Of course, being a frontline employee means the only way to work in the retail, restaurant, healthcare environment, and more will have to be in person or in the office to support human beings face-to-face.

The shift to remote work was initially seen as a temporary solution to the pandemic. Still, it quickly became apparent that working from home was possible and offered many benefits to employers and employees. One thing we heard coming out of the pandemic was that companies were saving a lot of money. They could decrease the amount of office space and, in some cases, save millions of dollars on parking spots or mass transit expenses companies cover to support employees. There were also many other benefits companies paid for, for employees that were also taken out of the budget. On the employee side, we have heard employees say they will not go back to an office 100% of the time, sighting the time they save not having to get ready in work clothes, packing lunches, making sure kids and pets are cared for during the day, and getting in the car to drive. The expense of working in an office that an employee doesn't enjoy paying for includes not only gas, tolls, lunch, dry cleaning, daycare, and possibly pet care; it also consists of the emotions of dealing with traffic and the time that is lost on the road. The hybrid work environment benefits both the employee and the company when it comes to the war for talent. It is not only about allowing folks to cut out the commute. When a company has a hybrid schedule, they also can hire folks remotely that may not be living in the locale but bring specialized skills to the company that helps drive revenue and profit.

Though employees want a flexible environment and, to some extent, a feeling that their bosses trust them to produce the value they were hired for, a new report from the United States Department of Labor suggests that the work-from-home era may be coming to an end. According to the report, 72.5% of workers were working remotely "rarely or never" in 2022, representing a 12.4% increase from the previous year. We find this interesting since we polled several companies in the white-collar sector of energy and the energy transition and though many people don't work 100% from home, they work 2 to 3 days from home.

On the flip side, according to a Stanford Report, the pandemic sharply accelerated trends of people working from home, leaving lasting impacts on how we work going forward. This report stated that individuals enjoy reduced time in traffic and availability to tend to personal tasks, confirming our findings. Citing that though people are returning to the office, we are still seeing a massive surge in the number of people working from home, and it may be the largest change to the U.S. economy since World War II.

All of this raises important questions about the future of work and how businesses will need to adapt to meet their employees' changing needs and find talent when our population is decreasing. While many workers and companies have embraced remote work, it may not be the best option for every business. But employees recognize when a company needs to be all in-person, for example, a start-up company in its first years versus a company with competitors that all have remote work.


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