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Will your remote job stay that way?

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University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

The COVID-19 pandemic definitely hastened the trend toward remote work. As more workers were able to perform their jobs from their homes, people realized they were not tethered to an office cubicle in a particular city.

Trying to find a new job where you can work from home? The pandemic prompted many job-seekers to look for remote or hybrid work, but how do you know whether the job you’re applying for now will stay remote in the coming years?

Some of the biggest clues can come from a company’s competitors.

In my latest research — co-authored with Smith PhD student Jingwen Yang, Charles Ham of Indiana University, and Wenfeng Wang of City University of Hong Kong — we looked at work-from-home job postings and found employers are more likely to offer remote work when more of their peers already do so.

Many people like the option to work from home. According to research, some employees are even willing to accept lower wages in exchange for workplace flexibility. Several employers such as Airbnb noted their career pages receive considerably more views when a job description includes the flexibility to work from home.

Rebecca Hann is the assistant dean of Doctoral Programs and Dean’s Professor of Accounting at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Even CEOs who are reluctant to offer work-from-home flexibility may be forced to if many of their competitors do. If not, they risk losing employees to those competitors or facing strong headwinds when attracting new talent.  

The risk is even more real in a tight labor market, but if the economy enters a recession and the job market cools, bargaining power could shift back to employers. Companies that prefer a return-to-office policy might choose to stand their ground instead of caving into pressure to offer remote work flexibility.

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