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Return-to-Office Sentiment: What CRE Companies and Candidates Need to Know

As companies try to figure out new policies about remote work in light of COVID-19’s disruption, flexibility and compromise are key.

Work-from-home policies are having an impact on job candidates’ willingness to join a company. According to Prudential Financial, 25 percent of workers are planning to seek job opportunities with a new employer once the threat of the pandemic has subsided.

These workers overwhelmingly say they need a job with more flexibility, and if their current employer doesn’t continue to offer ongoing remote-work options, they’ll look for a job with a company that does.

Meanwhile, many CRE employers (and not just old school ones—you know who you are) believe that their company runs more smoothly, efficiently and productively with its team in the office. They don’t want to continue allowing full-time work-from-home schedules for all employees once their offices reopen, and they would like to return to a more traditional work environment.

Given these different priorities, how will hiring companies and candidates reach an agreement on where and when to work? Here is some insight into how employers and job candidates feel about returning to the office in the new normal.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach

Returning to the workplace after a pandemic is unprecedented. There is no clear-cut blueprint that works for every business, and each company is figuring out its approach individually. Because of this, there are many shades of gray in the policies that companies are instituting.

For example, some already have their full teams back in the office, others are planning a return sometime between July and September, while still others have no plans of going back to the office. Many companies are concerned about the legal issues surrounding requiring employees to come into the workplace while the virus is still circulating and whether they can or should mandate vaccination.

As companies begin to formulate their return-to-work policies, they are being mindful of how these policies will impact hiring and staffing. Most firms realize that having a strict five-day, 40-hour-per-week rule could lead to increased turnover and even cause candidates to turn down a job offer.

Flex schedules are gaining popularity

Many employees are apprehensive about health and safety in the workplace after COVID-19—especially if they or someone in their household is elderly or has an underlying medical condition. In addition, as they have tasted the forbidden fruit of remote work, most employees now are hesitant to relinquish it in entirety. These factors are causing many workers and candidates to prefer working from home over coming into the office.

Given these factors and firms’ ongoing need to attract and retain top talent, it may be difficult for them to disallow working from home. In fact, the companies we’ve spoken with are recognizing the need to provide a flexible work environment for their existing employees and new hires.

Most companies are opting for a hybrid work model whereby team members work in the office a few days a week and remotely the remaining days of the week. Whether that breaks down to a 3-2, 2-3, or 1-4 office/remote schedule depends on the company, the job and the employee.

There are also many ways these schedules might be set. Employees might go in on the same days each week, it could vary week to week as long as a certain number of days or hours is met, or could even be arranged through online booking systems that ensure a limited amount of people within a workplace, or portion of a workplace, at the same time.

Each company must determine for itself which schedule works best and whether it will be considered on a companywide or individual basis.

Employers and candidates must compromise

Employers are realizing that a strict return-to-work policy will not only alienate employees, but could make them less competitive in the marketplace. If workers and candidates can find a more flexible policy elsewhere, they are less likely to remain with a company that is instituting a 40-hour-a-week in-office mandate.

At the same time, job seekers need to understand employers’ perspective on remote working. As we move away from the pandemic, companies will be less inclined to allow their teams to work full time from home on a permanent basis, and insisting on it may cost candidates a job offer. Even though the demand for top talent is strong, this could be a deal breaker for many firms.

The bottom line is that employers and candidates must compromise regarding remote work. By crafting policies that allow for flexibility, companies can draw in and retain top talent. Simultaneously, by being sensitive to employers’ needs and goals, candidates can take advantage of job opportunities and continue to advance their careers in the post-COVID-19 era.

Kent Elliot is a Principal at RETS Associates, one of the nation’s leading real estate executive search firms specializing in connecting today’s companies with valuable talent to deliver long-term profitability. With a proprietary database of more than 50,000 experienced candidates, RETS helps industry leaders find powerful executive positions, while also helping global, national, and regional real estate companies strategically recruit and hire both permanent and interim employees. For more information, contact