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Survey: Frontline Workers Don’t Resent Their WFH Colleagues, But Want Flexibility

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Dec 6, 2023


Often overlooked in the debate over returning to the office (RTO) is that many workers do not have the option of working remotely, but these workers do not envy those who have the option of working from home all or part of the time, a Gallup poll found.

These employees are known as frontline workers, meaning that they interact with customers or manufacture products directly.

More than half – 58 percent – of U.S. workers cannot adopt hybrid work, the survey found, and these frontline workers have far lower engagement than others. Fully on-site, non-remote-capable employees have far lower engagement (29 percent) than fully remote workers (38 percent), hybrid workers (38 percent) and even on-site workers who are remote-capable (34 percent).

And yet.

More than half – 57 percent -- of on-site, non-remote-capable employees said that they are “not at all” bothered that other workers are allowed to work from home some of the time. Only one third of frontline workers said that they would leave their current employer for the option of working from home.

These workers still want more flexibility in their own jobs, Ryan Pendell, senior workplace science editor with Gallup, who worked on the survey, told The Washington Post.

“Everybody wants the ability to reasonably adjust your job in order to make your job and the rest of your life fit,” he said. (There are also workers who are bothered about hybrid work: frustration was highest among workers who work fully on-site but have remote-capable roles, Gallup’s data found.).

That ability is not available to many, points out Harvard University sociologist Daniel Schneider, who studies how scheduling affects workers’ lives.

Many front-line workers are expected to keep their availability open, he told The Post. Some workers rarely get notice about when they’ll be working; others cannot count on a stable income because they are often sent home early if business is slow.

About 80 percent of front-line workers had little to no input on their schedules before the pandemic, Schneider’s research revealed, a number that he suspects has not changed much.

“That’s not fair and not sustainable for workers,” he said. “We need to recognize that workers can have constraints to their availability and still be committed to work.

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