As inflation continues, the power of choice held by employees during the recent Great Resignation may soon shift to the employer’s side.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. job market has regained strength, encouraging employees to either ask for promotions and perks or find a better offer. To protect their retention, employers have been hesitant to mandate in-office work – but the financial threat of a recession could sway this stalemate.
With the job market filling up and a recession looming over the country, companies may leverage the situation to bring employees back into the office. The unemployment rate was 3.6% in June for the fourth month straight, and even with inflation posing 40-year record highs, the labor market remains steady. A couple big-name corporations have already begun their in-office mandates.
Apple and Google, for example, began their return-to-work initiatives in April with plans for a hybrid work model. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, on the other hand, announced in late May that employees would work in the office at least 40 hours per week or risk termination. Even with recent studies highlighting remote work as a favorite among U.S. employees, some employers can’t be swayed. According to a 2022 McKinsey survey, 87% of workers that are offered some amount of remote work will gladly accept it, preferring an average of three remote days per week. And flexible arrangements such as remote work were a top motivator for accepting new jobs.
Still, while recessions hurt revenues, they also give employers greater control over their workforces. If inflation and a future recession render workers desperate enough, they’ll likely return to the office.
But most employers have little reason to mandate a full-time, in-person model. This is because a flexible hybrid work style is usually free for employers, and saves money on office space if they decide to completely end their lease. Employees are catching on, too – a recent Stanford study on return-to-work policies found that businesses with a five-day, in-person workweek have a take-up rate of less than 50%.
This is all without mentioning younger workers, such as the Gen. Z cohort, who place heavier importance on a work-life balance than previous generations. Without the obligations of a family or pressing financial responsibilities, younger workers may call it quits in response to return-to-work policies. This is seen in a report by the ADP Research Institute, which found that over 70% of workers ages 18-24 would consider job hopping if their employer mandated full-time, in-person work.
With these statistics and sentiments, it’s clear that office returns will largely depend on how the recession plays out. Current job opportunities are still driving workers to pursue new roles if their remote desires aren’t being met, but a recession could give employers more power in enforcing return-to-work mandates.
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Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator
Twice-named a U.S. News Best Lawyer in America for employment and labor law, Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and certified workplace and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH) in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues. Furthermore, she’s been named a “Top 50 Woman Attorney” in California by Super Lawyers, a “Top California Employment Lawyer” by the Daily Journal and one of Los Angeles’ “Most Influential Minority and Women Attorneys” by the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, NewsNation, ABC News, CBS News, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Forbes.com, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Daily Journal, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.
Angela is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California dispute resolution company. She also owns her own dispute resolution law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in the mediation, arbitration, and investigation of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other workplace claims, along with Title IX, sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct conduct cases, along with hazing and bullying cases in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, fraternities and sororities; fire, police and other public safety agencies and departments; and other private and public sector workplaces.
Reddock-Wright has also launched her own radio show, Legal Lens with Angela Reddock-Wright, airing on Tavis Smiley’s new KBLA Talk 1580 radio station on Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. PT with replays on subsequent Sundays. Listeners may tune-in by downloading the APP @kbla1580 and call the PowerLines at 1-800-920-1580. You can listen to past episodes on Anchor.Fm/Spotify.
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This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.