Is the era of flexible working over? LinkedIn data shows it might be

Remote working opportunities are decreasing, despite demand remaining high, new data from LinkedIn shows.
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Those who have gotten used to flexible working might soon have a rude awakening.

The amount of remote job postings on LinkedIn are falling, according to new data released by the platform. In the U.S. for example, the share of postings with remote roles has declined by 5 percentage points since April, when they peaked at 20% of postings.

While this is still much higher than the pre-pandemic average of 2%, it is a stark contrast to what employees want, Josh Graff, managing director for the EMEA and LATAM regions at LinkedIn, told CNBC Make It.

"Professionals now value flexibility in the workplace very highly — it consistently lists among the most important priorities for employees after compensation, along with skills development and work-life balance," he said.

Despite the drop in remote working jobs in the U.S., these postings are still receiving over half of the total applications as of September, LinkedIn's data shows.

The research shows that countries around the world follow a similar pattern — in the U.K., remote jobs make up 14.6% of opportunities, but get 20.2% of total applications and in India, the 11.3% of available remote roles are being sent 20.3% of resumes.

Why companies are scaling back

According to a survey released by LinkedIn alongside the data on remote job opportunities, the shift away from them is linked to the current economic situation.

Sixty-eight percent of executives surveyed said they were concerned that the ongoing uncertainty about economic stability and a looming recession would force their companies to undo at least some of the progress made toward flexible working during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Around the world we're seeing hiring slow and companies freeze recruitment due to economic uncertainty, with business leaders under intense pressure to manage costs and boost productivity," Graff explained.

"Where the pandemic led to a shift towards flexible working and initiatives to support employees, the balance of power is now shifting back to employers," he added.

Flexible working is not the only employee perk being hit by the current economic turmoil, the survey found. 74% of executives said skills development may have to take a backseat, while 75% said employee wellbeing would likely be less of a priority.

Close to 3,000 C-level executives at companies with at least 1,000 employees and with a minimum annual turnover of at least £250 million ($288.3 million) were surveyed by YouGov on behalf of LinkedIn to gather these insights.

"Flexibility is going to increasingly become a matter of survival for businesses,"
Josh Graff
Managing director for EMEA and LATAM at LinkedIn

While companies might think scaling back perks like flexible working will help them, there could be serious long-term consequences, Graff believes.

"Companies who wind back progress on remote and flexible working risk demotivating their workforce and pushing them to competitors that offer more attractive options. Flexibility is going to increasingly become a matter of survival for businesses," he said.

LinkedIn's data on remote working opportunities versus applications to these postings clearly shows demand remains high, a sentiment that was echoed by leaders at CNBC's recent Work Summit, where a wide range of business leaders argued that flexible working is central to recruiting and retaining employees.

Many companies are also still reeling from the so-called Great Resignation, and have since been offering a broader range of benefits, with some going as far as adapting a four-day work week to help recruit and retain employees.

Adaptability and flexibility are therefore key for companies going forward, Graff argues.

"It's those who see this period as an opportunity, who are prepared to adapt and iterate, and explore new ways of working that will outperform competitors in the long-term," he concluded.