- According to a report by McKinsey, 87% of US workers want flexibility, but 50% of employers want employees back in the office.
- The Great Mismatch refers to a misalignment in expectations between employees who want more remote work and employers who wish to return to traditional, office-based work practices.
- Employers and employees might have to shift their mindsets and accept compromises that work for everyone.
The pandemic presented a unique opportunity to work differently, which meant that most had to make a quick transition to remote work — often for the first time.
Within a short period, we witnessed technological changes to work arrangements that would otherwise have taken years to arrive. However, some employers want to turn back the clock and get workers back into the office.
Is it fair that employees hired on the premise of being able to work remotely are now expected to start commuting to work?
What exactly is this “Great Mismatch?”
Another “Great” has now been added to the growing list that has surfaced over the last few years: the Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle, and so on. The Great Mismatch refers to a misalignment in expectations between employees who want more remote work and employers who wish to return to traditional, office-based work practices.
In recent years, many employees have expressed a desire for greater flexibility in their work arrangements, including the ability to work remotely or have more control over their schedules. However, rather than meet this demand, many employers are now scaling back flexible work offers.
There are 10.1 million job openings in the U.S., but not all these jobs appeal to prospective employees. Employers are struggling to hire staff, and employees cannot find the work they want. There is growing competition for a decreasing number of remote roles (whilst office-based vacancies are on the rise).
According to LinkedIn, 50% of job seekers submitted applications for remote positions, yet online advertisements for these positions are disappearing. This indicates that employers and employees have different priorities and that the demand for remote work has outstripped supply.
Last year, a World Employment Confederation report highlighted some of the reasons for this mismatch and how the issue could be resolved. Several reasons why employers are reluctant to embrace remote work are cited in the report, including employers’ concerns about the impact of remote work on productivity. Another concern is that remote workers will be less engaged with their colleagues and disconnected from their company’s culture.
Many employees who value the benefits of remote work (such as better work-life balance, the flexibility to meet family demands, and reduced commute time and expenses) do not accept these arguments.
There are also real concerns over business rates for half-empty buildings and long-term contracts for office spaces that are no longer required. As beneficial as remote work can be, it also has the potential to negatively impact businesses in other sectors (especially cafes, restaurants and small businesses that rely on trade with office workers).
Public transportation could also be affected if people no longer commute into towns and cities, and there is a question of what will become of central business districts that used to be characterized by thriving, bustling office environments.
Can the current disconnect be resolved?
The WEC report highlights how the HR sector could help to resolve the current mismatch in expectations between employees and employers. For instance, employers should be encouraged to listen to feedback from employees and consider the potential benefits of flexible work practices for both the company and the workforce. The report suggests that employers should establish clear guidelines and expectations for remote work arrangements, provide appropriate training and support for employees to work remotely, and employ the latest technology to facilitate communication and collaboration between team members.
A recent study found that 18 – 34-year-olds would be willing to take a 16-18% pay cut to work remotely, indicating how much this cohort prefers remote work. However, instead of taking pay cuts, perhaps job seekers need to be more innovative in their approach. One solution for employees who wish to work from home is to target specific sectors (and roles) most conducive to long-term remote work.
The availability of remote jobs differs across industries — for example, remote work availability in the creative and design sector is decreasing, whilst remote work in the field of Scientific and Quality Assurance is increasing. Job seekers should also consider whether their skills match the needs of companies offering remote work. Where there is a mismatch, prospective job candidates could develop and promote their transferable skills, enabling them to move to other sectors (where remote work is more available).
The jobs market is slowing down, high inflation is driving up the cost of living, workers are being “forced” back to the office, and wage increases are stalling. It’s predicted that if mass layoffs also occur, the balance of power could shift back to employers. In contrast, some experts believe that a return to pre-pandemic levels of office-based work will never happen, and that continued investment in technology will ensure that employees can continue to work remotely.