How to Navigate the Remote versus In-Person Quandry

It has been three and a half years since the COVID-19 pandemic started affecting workplaces in the US. In early March 2020, workers deemed “non-essential” immediately worked from home. Here we are, three years past the epidemic that sent many of us into a remote work environment. But there were and still are many employees working in the office or another job requiring them to work outside the home.

According to a study from, about 27% of Americans work remotely. Their research states:

  • 27% of U.S. employees work remotely as of 2023
  • 36.2 million American employees are expected to work remotely by 2025
  • 40% of workers believe they were more productive while working at home during the pandemic, as opposed to the office
  • 16% of U.S. companies are fully remote
  • Remote jobs now make up 15% of work opportunities in the US


This means that the majority of workers are working outside of the home. That could bring many challenges for leaders and HR Professionals in organizations where employees must be in the office or a role away from their homes. According to an article by Forbes, “Sixty-five percent of workers desire to work remotely all the time, highlighting the popularity of this work model. At the same time, 32% prefer a hybrid schedule, which combines the best of both worlds—flexibility from remote work and collaboration opportunities from in-office work.”

This means that while your employees work in the office or outside the home, they prefer to work at home or remotely. This will considerably impact turnover and cause you to pull your hair out figuring out how to retain employees. How do you manage this and keep people engaged?


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Explore Different Definitions of “Remote”

First, work with your HR team to build a strategy around work. What roles are/can be remote, and why and what roles cannot be remote? Will you be a hybrid workplace? What basis will you use for making these decisions? It cannot be “up to the manager” because that will create inequities across the organization as some managers have higher trust with their employees than others.


Communicate Transparently

The next step is to communicate this strategy and why it’s the right strategy for your business. Having the executive team in lockstep on this communication is essential to send a consistent message across the organization. Also, it doesn’t hurt to over-communicate, especially regarding the guiding principles of how your organization works and why. 


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Dig into the Why — Why Do Your Employees Want Remote Work?

Finally, understand employees’ needs. Generally speaking, people want to work remotely because of the flexibility it gives them, the ability to manage home life with young children, pets, or aging parents, and because it saves them time and costs. They also get to work in a way that works for them. As I write this, my son is eating breakfast next to me. What a cool experience I wouldn’t have in the office.


Find Other Solutions to Their Why

Is there a way to create programs to feed these needs? Could you create flexibility in other ways? Maybe 4 x 10 hour work days, to give employees time off. Could you job share so that you have two part-time employees instead of one full-time to give flexibility? Could you offer more flexibility in your paid time off or leave policies? Could you provide commuting benefits, daycare stipends, or other programs that could benefit the employee and help them feel like “you get it”?

Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size fits all solution for this quandary. It will be very specific to your organization and your customers’ needs. Being thoughtful, strategic, and consistent will help employees feel like the decisions make sense and are fair. You may not retain everyone, but when recruiting, you can show the guiding principles, show that you’re being honest, and set the expectation from the start.