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Research Finds Disconnect Between How Employees Want to Work and What Managers Are Planning

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A year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, employers and employees have workplace preferences after adapting and adjusting out of necessity.

But according to new research from Menlo Park, Calif.-based hiring firm Robert Half, those employers and employees don’t seem to be on the same page about returning to the office.

More than 7 in 10 senior managers will require workers to return fully to the office, according to the findings, even though 1 in 3 employees working remotely would look for another job if forced to go back.

Senior managers cite hybrid challenges, from communication to professional development

A previous Robert Half survey found that nearly half (49%) of employees surveyed prefer a hybrid arrangement, which is at odds with the 16% of senior managers in the new survey leaning toward a mix of on-site and remote work.

While team members prefer a split, senior managers express various challenges about supervising teams in a hybrid arrangement.

These stumbling blocks include:

  • Effective communication (22%)
  • Trust that employees will get their work done (20%)
  • Getting a feel for appropriate workloads and avoiding employee burnout (20%)
  • Recognition of accomplishments (20%)
  • Finding ways to support professional development (19%)

Beyond the in-office or hybrid debate, another 12% of senior managers are leaving it up to their employees to decide.

Where hybrid work opportunities will be

Hybrid or fully in-office job opportunities will vary across cities, industries and company sizes.

According to the Robert Half survey, companies that will offer at least part-time remote work are most likely to be found in Boston (45%), San Francisco (38%) and Philadelphia (37%).

Those cities are followed by:

  • Dallas and Pittsburgh (35%)
  • Chicago, Minneapolis and Raleigh, N.C. (34%)
  • Cleveland (33%)
  • Los Angeles, San Diego and Tampa, Fla. (31%)
  • New York, Seattle and Washington, D.C. (30%)
  • Indianapolis (28%)
  • Sacramento, Calif. (27%)

Employees in marketing (30%) and finance (28%), as well as those in organizations with 1,000-plus workers, might have a better chance of finding such an arrangement. Here’s how that plays out:

How people will work, by industry
Finance Technology Marketing Legal Admin support Human resources
Fully in office 71% 72% 68% 72% 81% 75%
Hybrid 18% 18% 17% 15% 10% 13%
Employees can decide 10% 9% 13% 12% 8% 12%
How people will work, by number of employees
20-499 500-999 1,000+
Fully in office 72% 74% 68%
Hybrid 14% 15% 19%
Employees can decide 13% 10% 11%

A June 2021 LendingTree study found that 25% of Americans thought about starting a business during the coronavirus pandemic. With 17% of these respondents citing the crisis as a reason, it’s no surprise that some employees are at odds with their workplace. Those thinking about starting a business could consider a startup loan to get the process rolling.

Methodology: Robert Half commissioned independent research firms to field online surveys of over 5,600 senior managers and employees. The research was conducted in two parts: March 26 to April 15, 2021, with more than 2,800 workers ages 18 or older, and June 4 to July 1, 2021, with more than 2,800 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees.


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