Back-to-the-Office Timelines Remain Unpredictable

The Traverse Jobs Office Survey (September 2020) confirms a few things we already believed, but offered a few compelling insights about timelines for returning to work. Our data includes employees at government agencies, non-profits, for-profits, media, and academia and confirmed that 76 percent of employers are still being supported by a remote workforce. Here in the metro-DC area, most of us knew it was substantial based on the lighter traffic around the beltway, and our data confirms that most employees have yet to return to their office.

Most surprising, however, is that more than a quarter of all employees working remotely have not gotten any communication from their employer about the future of their working location. Of those that have, very few will be returning to an office location before the new year.

Of the smaller groups of employees working hybrid, 80 percent do not expect to return to the office this year and half of them can choose to continue to work remotely indefinitely.

For those that are in the office, half report that they have remained in the office since the start of Covid, and the other half recently returned to the office.

On the flip side of all this remote work, many employers are reporting that working from home is not sustainable in the long run.

As Ronald Kruszewski, chief executive of Stifel Financial Corp., explained in The Wall Street Journal, “I am concerned that we would somehow believe that we can basically take kids from college, put them in front of Zoom, and think that three years from now, they’ll be every bit as productive as they would have had they had the personal interaction [of work in offices].”

And there are plenty of others whose businesses historically relied on face-to-face interaction who don’t see the physical office as dead. Quality of work suffers, missed opportunities abound, and personal connections are lost. This is especially true on Capitol Hill where hallway conversations and back room negotiations are the hallmark of our political system. For new and returning members alike, being physically onsite is preferable for these and other reasons.

So if you are looking for a job in Washington, DC, and wondering if you should move here or count on working remotely, the answer is that you may be able to land the job from a remote location, but you should plan to move here this winter or spring at the latest. It’s historically been the case that you need to be in the same city where you are job seeking, and I’m not ready to throw that advice out the door just yet.


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