Industry Update
Press Release10 February 2021

PwC’s US Remote Work Survey - It’s time to reimagine where and how work will get done

Nine months into a monumental shift to work-from-home, business leaders are more convinced about the productivity gains achieved, but some are no closer to giving up the office.

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PricewaterhouseCoopers

In many companies, determining what to do with the office is the focal point of a much larger discussion. The success of remote work has reimagined how corporate work gets done, as well as where the work takes place. PwC's second survey into attitudes about remote work finds US executives and employees converging around a post-pandemic future with a lot more flexibility, yet few are prepared to completely abandon the office space.

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As a result, by design or default, most companies are heading toward a hybrid workplace where a large number of office employees rotate in and out of offices configured for shared spaces. This model embraces the flexibility that most employees (and some employers) crave after working from home for months. It's also a complicated way to organize the work week and is likely to transform a company's culture, employee engagement, the way the work gets done and how office space is used.

Most of the executives and employees we surveyed expect this hybrid workplace reality to begin to take shape in the second quarter of this year. To be sure, the timing will depend on the rollout of vaccines. Some firms might move more quickly as vaccines become more available or slow down if vaccinations occur slower than anticipated. PwC surveyed 133 executives and 1,200 office workers in November and December 2020.

Top findings:

  • Remote work has been an overwhelming success for both employees and employers. The shift in positive attitudes toward remote work is evident: 83% of employers now say the shift to remote work has been successful for their company, compared to 73% in our June 2020 survey.
  • The office is here to stay, but its role is set to change. Less than one in five executives say they want to return to the office as it was pre-pandemic. The rest are grappling with how widely to extend remote work options, with just 13% of executives prepared to let go of the office for good. Meanwhile, 87% of employees say the office is important for collaborating with team members and building relationships — their top-rated needs for the office.

  • Employees want to return to the office more slowly than employers expect.

    By July 2021, 75% of executives anticipate that at least half of office employees will be working in the office. In comparison, 61% of employees expect to spend half their time in the office by July.

  • There's no consensus on the optimal balance of work days at home vs. in the office. Over half of employees (55%) would prefer to be remote at least three days a week once pandemic concerns recede — little changed from the 59% who said the same in June. For their part, while most executives expect options for remote work, they are also worried about the effects: 68% say a typical employee should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain a distinct company culture.

  • Least experienced workers need the office the most. Respondents with the least amount of professional experience (0-5 years) are more likely to want to be in the office more often. Thirty percent of them prefer being remote no more than one day a week vs. just 20% of all respondents. The least experienced workers are also more likely to feel less productive while working remotely (34% vs. 23%). They're more likely to value meeting with managers or company training programs than their more experienced colleagues.

  • Real estate portfolios are in transition. Most (87%) executives expect to make changes to their real estate strategy over the next 12 months. These plans include consolidating office space in premier locations and/or opening more satellite locations. Over the next three years, while some executives expect to reduce office space, 56% expect to need more. These mixed findings show that some companies are planning to reinvest the remote work dividend in new ways in order to create a special experience in the office.

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About PwC US

PwC US helps organizations and individuals create the value they're looking for. We're a member of the PwC network of firms in 157 countries with more than 195,000 people. We're committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax and advisory services. Tell us what matters to you and find out more by visiting us at www.pwc.com/US. PwC refers to the US member firm, and may sometimes refer to the PwC network. Each member firm is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.

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