Is Flexible Work Dying?

When the pandemic brought the world to a standstill, companies and businesses around the world scrambled to keep operating. By implementing new and radical strategies to keep the wheels turning, organisations found new ways to sustain. It changed the very fabric of how we work, how businesses grow, and how employment got a facelift it hadn’t anticipated. Not only did we learn how to oil the wheels that changed the face of business, but we also created new employment opportunities in pressing times. Confined to the safety of our homes, we found ways to keep going and growing without the need to be in an office campus–what has now become the preferred choice of working. 

The rise and rise of remote and flexible work

New working norms that enable flexible and remote work is now a critical feature for job seekers considering a role. McKinsey & Company’s American Opportunity Survey which involved 25,000 respondents in the US revealed that 58% had the opportunity of working from home once a week and 35% had the choice to work from home for the entire week. Respondents held both blue and white-collar jobs and the case for remote work seems to only be growing stronger. 

The survey also states that when people have the choice to work flexibly, a whopping 87% jump at it. While working from home was a mandate, it has now become a beneficial choice for many. According to Pew Research Center, about six in 10 US workers say that their work can be done from home and 59% work from home most of the time. However, it’s a steep decline from October 2020, when 71% were working from home or remotely.

Ergotron’s evolving ebook shows why working from home is beneficial for employees. For starters, 56% of respondents reported improved mental health while 40% reported working extra hours at home, making them more productive. Here’s a shocking revelation–employees admitted to being sedentary at work for almost five hours. 

You might also be interested to read: Is Remote Working Buoying Employee Productivity?

Not everyone is happy with remote and flexible work 

It may seem like the world’s workforce is rallying up to make work-from-home and flexible work options a “regular” workday choice but there are many who are more than willing to go back to a physical workspace. Remote work has posed a bane for many working mothers. Along with a full-time career to nurture, household activities like taking care of the children and the elderly, preparing meals, and basic things like laundry almost automatically fell on the women. 

A Qualtrics report shows that most parents (nearly 70%) said that working from home has positively impacted their careers. While 77% of men with children say they’ve been more productive working at home during the pandemic only 46% of women stated the same. 

The study shows a skewed view of the work-life balance during the pandemic, mostly in favour of men:

  • 41% of men reported fewer distractions like emails and phone calls while only 19% of women said the same.
  • 30% of men said their workflows were more efficient but only 12% of women felt that way. 
  • 30% of men had better access to technology while only 8% of women did. 

It seems remote and flexible work has only put a halt to achieving gender equality in the workplace. McKinsey & Company points out that we’re in the “midst of a great breakup”, as women are demanding more from their workplaces and are happy to leave in search of greener pastures. 

Brewing uncertainty

The unfair treatment of working mothers isn’t the only reason why companies all over may cut flexible work options. The impending recession, an economy in turmoil, and the Great Resignation are other factors that may contribute to the end of the remote work culture.

In India, household names like TCS, Wipro, and Mahindra Group are now asking their employees to come back to the office. Everything comes with its set of pros and cons, and working from home poses unique problems between management and employees. A severe lack of communication that leads to countless misunderstandings, unmonitored performance–even at the risk of micromanaging, a lack of organisational structure, lack of productivity, and feeling left out are some of the major causes of concern. 

While employees are still calling the shots, they are also acutely aware of the rising costs of living due to inflation rates like never before, and also the fear of losing their jobs. According to an Atomik Research/Vidyard study, The Future of Work in Financial Services: Remote or In-Office, a staggering 96% of financial services professionals would forgo a percentage of their income if given the choice to work from home permanently. On the other hand, 86% still fear that they would miss out on opportunities and perks at the office. 

There are other implications of not returning to work as it could affect economies on a global scale. As women who served as unpaid workers and those who recovered from long covid-related illnesses return to work, it could impact labour shortages. A Reuters article highlights that racial and ethnic minorities were over-represented in frontline work during the pandemic, and yet, not much has changed for them even now. 

While many argue that remote and flexible work helps organisations across the world save on real estate, remote work can rack up a bigger bill in other ways. If productivity levels are dropping, companies must find ways to collaborate and mentor those who are falling behind–a heavy price to pay when teams don’t even meet face-to-face. 

All said and done–it’s likely that working from home may not be the future of work or the ideal working model. Leadership and management teams are leading by example, and showing up to work themselves, urging all employees to come back. As the world’s economy takes a dip, perhaps meeting in person and working together may be the only way to lift each other’s spirits in testing times. 


  • Americans are embracing flexible work—and they want more of it | McKinsey & Company | June 23, 2022
  • COVID-19 Pandemic Continues To Reshape Work in America | Pew Research Center | February 16, 2022 
  • The Evolving Office: Empower Employees to Work Vibrantly in 2022 | Ergotron 
  • Not in the same boat: Career progression in the pandemic | Qualtrics | August 26, 2020 
  • Women in the Workplace 2022 | Lean In | McKinsey & Company 
  • Remote work is the cruel new ally in the War on Working Moms | Fast Company | March 02, 2022 
  • The Future of Work in Financial Services:Remote or In-Office? | A Vidyard / Atomic Research Study 
  • Why a recession in 2023 could see remote workers return to the office | Reuters | December 7, 2022

You might also be interested to read:  70% Of Employees Feels Jobs Are More Attractive Under A Flexible Work Schedule

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