89% of People Expect Their Jobs to Be Partly Remote After Pandemic Ends, Global Workforce Study Shows

Preference to Occasionally Work from Home Is Nearly Universal, According to a Survey of 209,000 People in 190 Countries by BCG and The Network; Even Manual Workers Will Be Looking for Flexibility

An expectation on the part of workers that they will be allowed to work remotely more often will be one of the legacies of the pandemic, according to a new study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network. Eighty-nine percent of people said their preference in the future will be for a job that allows them to work from home at least occasionally.

A new report based on the study, Decoding Global Ways of Working, is being released today. It’s the second in a series of publications that BCG and The Network are releasing about the pandemic’s impact on worker preferences and expectations, reflecting the opinions of 209,000 participants in 190 countries.

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“People got a taste of remote work during the pandemic, and it has completely changed their expectations,” said Rainer Strack, one of the authors of the study and a senior partner at BCG. “It sends a very clear message that nine out of ten people want some aspects of this to be sustained. Employers can’t treat working from home as an occasional perk anymore.”

Most people prefer a hybrid model, with two or three days a week from home and the rest in the office, according to the study. And it isn’t just those in digital, knowledge, and office jobs—many of whom are already working remotely—who want more workplace flexibility on a permanent basis. Even study participants who have jobs that require the handling of physical goods, or contact with clients, expressed a desire for setups that would allow them to work remotely at least occasionally.

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It is indeed flexibility that most people are interested in, not a 180-degree turn in the traditional model that would have everyone working from home all the time and never going to a physical work location. Only a relatively small proportion of workers—one in four—would switch to a completely remote model if they could.

The enthusiasm for fully remote work is particularly low in developed countries. Fully remote is the preference of only 7% of people in Denmark and 8% of people in Switzerland and France, for instance. There is more of an appetite for fully remote work in developing countries. For instance, more than 40% of people in the Philippines and parts of Africa say they would be willing to work from home permanently.

Falling outside the pattern of developed- and developing-country attitudes are the US and China. Thirty-five percent of Americans say they would be happy to do their jobs 100% from home. This relatively high proportion (the US is the only developed country that ranks in the top ten for interest in fully remote work) may reflect the difference in cost of living between large US cities and the locations where people would choose to live if they didn’t need to commute. By contrast, only 8% of Chinese workers say they would be willing to work from home full time, a number that places China near the bottom of our list of fully remote work preference.

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