The Office is Not Dead: Most Remote Job Postings Describe Remote Work as ‘Temporary’
Work-from-home job postings are increasingly marked as 'temporarily remote', suggesting employers increasingly are looking toward returning to the workplace.
- Some 60% of remote jobs posted by employers on Indeed UK were marked as ‘temporarily remote’ during Lockdown 3 in early 2021.
- During Lockdown 2 in late 2020, only 30% of remote jobs were so marked.
- This trend indicates many employers expect remote workers to return to their pre-pandemic workplaces.
Reports of the death of the office appear exaggerated. Certainly, the number of people working from home in the UK has soared, especially in office-based managerial, professional and technical occupations. Meanwhile, the share of job postings on Indeed UK mentioning remote work has quadrupled from 3% to 12% over the past year. But as many as 60% of remote jobs that employers posted on Indeed in Lockdown 3 were marked as ‘temporarily remote due to Covid-19’. Could this mean that remote work will quickly dwindle when the pandemic ends?
Job postings on Indeed UK come from many sources, such as company recruitment websites and applicant tracking systems. We determined the proportion of temporarily remote postings by looking at jobs employers placed directly on Indeed UK, one of the largest sources of postings. Since April 2020, these employers have been asked an optional question: ‘Can this job be performed remotely, meaning primarily from home?’ Possible responses are ‘yes’, ‘temporarily due to Covid-19’ or ‘no’. The answer is added to the job description.
So far this year, ‘temporarily remote due to Covid-19’ has been more popular than ‘yes’. In all, 60% of postings for remote working positions were marked as temporarily remote from the start of Lockdown 3 on 6 January until 28 February 2021. This contrasts sharply with Lockdown 2 from 5 November to 2 December 2020 when only 30% of remote postings were so marked. The increase in the temporarily remote category may reflect employer optimism that a return to the pre-pandemic workplace is within reach.
Even in occupations that were office-based before the pandemic, but shifted radically toward remote work in lockdown — like software development, marketing and finance — most remote postings are now described as temporarily remote. Most of the ten occupations with the highest overall share of remote postings are white-collar, office-based jobs. Even in these occupations, between 52% and 78% of remote postings were marked as temporarily remote in Lockdown 3 through the end of February.
These results suggest many employers expect workers to return to the workplace at some point, either full-time or for part of the week. Nevertheless, two pieces of data suggest remote work could remain above pre-pandemic levels. First, around 40% of remote postings are still described as non-temporarily remote. Second, jobseeker interest in remote work remains elevated, with searches for remote jobs on Indeed up fivefold as a share of all searches over the past year. If a balance between employer and jobseeker wishes is struck, then the post-pandemic equilibrium may settle at less work from home than in lockdown, but more than before the pandemic. The office is not dead. But we may visit it less than we used to.
This analysis is based on jobs employers post directly on Indeed UK. These postings represent a substantial share of all postings and are useful for understanding how employers advertise work-from-home roles.
Job postings are classified as remote if the employer posting a job directly on Indeed answered ‘yes’ or ‘temporarily due to Covid-19’ to the question: ‘Can this job be performed remotely, meaning primarily from home?’
The overall share of remote job postings on Indeed UK also reflects job postings from other sources, such as applicant tracking systems or company career websites. These postings are classified as open to remote work if the job title or description includes terms like “remote work”, “telecommute”, “work from home”, or similar terms, or if the location is explicitly listed as remote.
We used the following dates to define lockdown periods: Lockdown 1: 23 March 2020 (PM’s ‘you must stay at home’ speech) to 1 June 2020 (some restrictions are eased); Lockdown 2: 5 November 2020 (second national lockdown comes into force in England) to 2 December 2020 (England returns to a three-tier system of restrictions); Lockdown 3: 6 January 2021 (England enters its third national lockdown) to 28 February 2021 (latest job posting data used).
Pawel Adrjan is Head of EMEA Research at the Indeed Hiring Lab and a Research Fellow at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford. Before joining Indeed, Pawel spent over a decade in investment banking, holding senior roles in risk management, credit ratings advisory, and treasury at Goldman Sachs and Barclays in London and New York. His research focuses on a wide range of labour market topics, such as wages, pensions and the impact of technology on jobs. Pawel speaks Polish, Spanish and French. He has completed a B.A. in international studies and a B.S. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.Phil. and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Oxford.