Number of the day: quitting over in-person work

Nearly two-thirds of the workforce say they would consider looking for a new job if they were required to return to the office full time, according to ADP Research Institute, which for its annual study surveyed more than 32,000 workers. In particular, younger people (18-24-year-olds) are the most reluctant (71%) to return to the workplace full-time.

What it means to HR leaders

HR and other company leaders are in the midst of a big decision: whether to require workers to come back into the office after a significant amount of time allowing them to work remotely in light of the ongoing pandemic.

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It’s an issue that’s gaining increased attention: Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, last week told his employees at both Tesla and SpaceX that they are required to return to the office—and if they don’t show up, they will lose their jobs.

Related: Elon Musk is ending remote work. Will other employers join him?

But many industry insiders warn that forcing employees to come back to offices could cause employers to lose talent—and the ADP data backs up those concerns.

“If flexibility, like remote work, is a top priority to someone, they may seek out a new job that is better aligned,” says Yvonne Bell, senior vice president of people and culture of software firm D2L. “The option to work remotely is the new normal for many employees, and many organizations have benefitted from increased engagement and productivity.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when a majority of employers shifted to allowing employees, when possible, to work remotely, “many employees have found that working from home has the advantages of better autonomy, focus, work-life flexibility, and even commutes,” Bell says. “Employees value flexibility and having the option to choose what makes sense for them personally.”

Several HR leaders, like Bell, are continuing to embrace remote work and primarily listening to their employees about their work preferences. That’s especially important in a hot job market, in which scores of employees are leaving their jobs in pursuit of other opportunities.

“It’s a competitive hiring landscape,” she says, “and I believe the companies that offer flexibility will have the advantage of hiring the best and brightest globally.”

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.