Full-Time Remote Work Has Plummeted According to New Report

Despite flexible working’s proven benefits, the office still prevails, according to new data.

Ernst & Young LLP has this week released its third annual EY Future Workplace Index, a national research survey that provides insight into the C-suite of US companies. 

From utilizing AI within the workplace to redefining Casual Fridays, the survey is chock-full of interesting data and analytics. However, a stand-out finding shows that there’s been a remarkable shift away from fully remote working in the last 12 months.

These statistics are at odds with the research that companies with remote working policies show higher revenue growth, or that 4-day workweeks and flexible working benefits both employers and employees.

A Shift From Working Fully Remote

It’s no secret that the world of corporate real estate is still finding its feet after three years of unsteady ground, with hybrid, remote, flexible, and four-day week work models all being tried and tested by companies.

However, the EY Future Workplace Index has shown that the wildly different stances seem to be settling down in favour of back-to-the-office mandates. 

EY US survey respondents reported that full-time remote working has plummeted from 34% in 2022 to just 1% in 2023. 

In the same vein, 99% of respondents indicated that they required employees to be in the office at least two days a week, with 32% of them requiring three days a week. Only 1% of employees are being asked to go into the office once a week or less. 

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Is Corporate Real Estate Growth Inevitable?

While these findings may disappoint employees who have been able to better balance work and life priorities thanks to more autonomy and flexibility, they do provide a glimmer of home for those in corporate real estate.

The drop in fully remote work highlights a likely chance that office towers and parks will start coming back to life. This in itself will have a positive economic impact for not only the real estate agents, but the retail and hospitality businesses in surrounding office areas.

But that’s not all. According to Francisco J. Acoba, EY Americas Co-Lead for Corporate Real Estate Consulting and Technology, more people in the office may boost employee productivity too.

“Dark offices can create unintended doubts and uncertainty for both the workforce and the marketplace, even while all that cost is still being absorbed by corporate budgets. We’ve learned a lot in the past three years about productive ways of working, and it’s becoming clear that most workplace models benefit from keeping the office lights on.”

Around 80% of companies reported that their employees’ productivity had been “somewhat or much higher” over the past 24 months. In contrast, around 28% of leaders felt their employees were equally productive when they work from home.

More Survey Highlights

While the battle of home versus office working rages on, the Index results also provided interesting insights elsewhere.

The introduction of AI in the workplace is being embraced, albeit with caution. 44% of respondents said they are using AI to “collect data to maximize and optimize their office space”. This is largely to create an efficient balance of individual and collaborative areas that target specific user needs.

Similarly, 38% stated they want to “apply AI to track the office’s sustainability and energy efficiency”. Only 2% of respondents said they’re not using AI or are not sure.

Elsewhere, talk on backtracking on Monday-Thursday working weeks took centre stage, with the percentage of employers implementing a four-day workweek falling from 21% to 18% since last year. Not all hope is lost though, as 24% of respondents are still considering the four-day workweek.

However, if you’re still firmly on the side of flexible working, even after reading the report and emerging trends, our tips on how to ask to work remotely may be helpful.

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Written by:
Ellis Di Cataldo (MA) has over 9 years experience writing about, and for, some of the world’s biggest tech companies. She's been the lead writer across digital campaigns, always-on content and worldwide product launches, for global brands including Sony, Electrolux, Byrd, The Open University and Barclaycard. Her particular areas of interest are business trends, startup stories and product news.
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