Scaling back your investment in the remote work landscape because of the tumultuous economic forecast? Not so fast.

For a while, it felt like the world was all in on a fully remote and hybrid work landscape. It appeared that we were falling into a groove, and a new era, after a period of extraordinary turmoil.

Now, inflation, looming fears of recession, and uncertainty about interest rates have caused some employers to pull in the reins. Job offers are being rescinded. Companies are enacting layoffs when mere weeks ago they were stretching budgets in a frantic attempt to attract talent. Companies that were fully embracing the permanent shift to remote and hybrid work are now second-guessing, wondering if the power shift means they can impel a return to the office.

This zigzag is beyond stressful for candidates and employers alike. And yet. And yet. If your instinct as an employer is to react by shying away from the remote work landscape, you could end up far worse off. Why?

What employees want moving forward

Top talent have made their voices very clear: They do not want to be forced to work in the office full-time. The statistics speak for themselves. Ivanti recently conducted a study on the State of the Digital Employee Experience (DEX). The study surveyed 10,000 office workers, IT professionals, and the C-suite to evaluate the level of prioritization and adoption of DEX in organizations and how it shapes employees' daily working experiences.

The results are eye-opening: just 13 percent of knowledge workers prefer to work exclusively from the office.

Thirteen percent. That leaves 87 percent of candidates off the table right away if you're insisting on full-time, in-person presence. 

Even if it becomes a full-fledged employers' market for the foreseeable future, that doesn't mean it's smart business to alienate 87 percent of potential candidates.

The study also found that employees have strong opinions about what their DEX includes. To increase job satisfaction, here's what respondents say they would like their employers to emphasize:

  • 30 percent: Upgrading my hardware
  • 28 percent: Improving the quality/responsiveness of the IT service desk
  • 25 percent: Improving IT self-service
  • 24 percent: More intuitive software and tools
  • 24 percent: Adopting tools that work across platforms

"It's absolutely fascinating," says Ivanti CEO Jeff Abbott. "Digital Employee Experience is one of the core reasons new employees select their next employer, and existing employees are starting to measure that experience as well. It is becoming akin to how we use Yelp to rate restaurants--not just for the food, but for the experience."

Plus, 49 percent of employees report being frustrated by their organization's tech and tools. Another 64 percent believe that how they interact with technology directly impacts morale. More takeaways:

  • 26 percent of employees are considering quitting their jobs because they lack suitable tech.
  • 42 percent have spent their own money on better tech to work more productively.
  • 65 percent believe they would be more productive if they had better technology at their disposal.

Investing in tech isn't just about improving productivity. It's also about effectively facilitating a flexible work structure. The study found that 56 percent of CXOs still feel that employees need to be in the office to be productive, but the research suggests that this is a perception--likely built on tradition and assumptions--not reality.

The irony is that this perception stems in part from the notion that employees don't have the resources to securely access the tools they need to do their best work. Meanwhile, the Digital Employee Experience survey makes it clear that remote employees want to do their best work--they just need the right tools to do it. Employers could resolve their own roadblock by facilitating seamless remote access. This can and should be part of a larger investment in an employee digital experience and workplace culture that promotes a highly productive, engaging, and secure remote workplace.

The problem

According to the research, only 20 percent of responding CXOs assign budget to improving the employee digital experience.

The pandemic catalyzed an irreversible shift in the way the world approaches knowledge work. Now that people know they can contribute without commuting full-time, it's hard to go back.

To be fair, there are plenty of industries for which remote and hybrid work aren't feasible long-term solutions. And there are indeed people who prefer to work in the office, and perhaps more people who will be willing to work in the office in an employers' market.

However, the numbers suggest that insisting on full-time, in-office presence will be at the expense of morale, loyalty, and--for many people--productivity.

Remote and hybrid work don't need to be considered "compromises" that employees "get away with" in an employee-driven market. Workplace location shouldn't be a power play that gets shifted around as the economy shifts. Invested wisely, the remote work landscape is a permanent solution. The ROI is an inclusive, engaged, secure, productive place where you can leverage the talents of people from all over the globe.