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Return to the office or hybrid work? Here's what's happening next

Employers that don't offer hybrid options can expect IT workers to quit.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
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Image: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Tech analyst Gartner forecasts that 51% of US knowledge workers will work under hybrid arrangements by the end of 2023 and 20% will be fully remote. 

The blend of hybrid and fully remote knowledge workers will be more pronounced in the US than the rest of the world, which on average should see 39% of knowledge workers in hybrid work and 9% fully remote. 

Gartner said IT workers are more inclined to quit their jobs than employees in other functions as they look for greater flexibility, improved work-life balance, and better career opportunities. CIOs can maximize retention and attraction of talent by resetting their employee value proposition with a "more human" deal.

Also: Remote work is here to stay. So why is everyone still getting it so wrong?

Ranjit Atwal, a senior director analyst at Gartner, said working hybrid is viewed as an expectation and not a perk today, even after some employees started returning to the office in 2022. 

Some companies have faced resistance from workers who've been instructed to return to the office. Companies are also experimenting with different approaches amid large layoffs and efforts to cut office space. 

For example CNBC, citing an internal memo to Google Cloud staff, recently reported that staff returning to the office will move to a desk-sharing model, where staff will share a desk with one other employee. The initiative aims to boost "real estate efficiency" as it downsizes office space. Managers will also be pairing up workers as "desk partners" who will have to "agree on a basic desk setup and establish norms." It's also implementing "neighborhoods" where employees can meet to hash out sharing arrangements and norms.

After announcing 18,000 layoffs in January, Amazon last month asked employees to come back to the office for at least three days a week and will begin implementing a global return to the office from May 1. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy argued the office enabled faster collaboration, although according to The Washington Post, about 21,000 Amazon knowledge and tech workers joined an internal Slack channel aimed at supporting remote work, and to voice opposition to the new policy. 

"Many employees started to partially return to the office in 2022, but the hybrid workstyle will remain prominent in 2023 and beyond," said Gartner's Atwal. 

"To adapt, employers have been implementing a human-centric work design -- including flexibility, intentional collaboration, and empathy-based management -- which suits hybrid employees."

Also: Microsoft confirms 10,000 job cuts in memo to staff 

Gartner sees the mix of remote workers differing across countries. While 71% of the US knowledge worker workforce will be remote and hybrid in 2023, the figure is 67% in the UK and just 29% in Japan, where there is a greater focus on a full-time return to the office. Gartner expects the percentage of hybrid workers to increase in 2023. In Germany, 49% of knowledge workers will be fully remote and hybrid. 

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