Today is Maryland Day, an official observance to honor Maryland history. To celebrate, the Founding Partners of the CSP team enjoyed a Maryland-themed bagel brunch thanks to a special delivery from our neighborhood bagel shop, THB Bagelry & Deli.

While it seems so simple–bagels and coffee in our office–it’s really the first time we have done this in several months. So in a way, we made history this Maryland day with our first “mini” in-office team breakfast.

While enjoying New York-style bagels, we got to discussing the great “return to the office” debate many companies are facing right now. Our team connects with experienced job candidates and successful small to mid-size companies every day, so it was interesting to talk about the perspectives candidates and companies have been sharing with our team members.

Here are just a few of the insights and predictions that came up during our brunch–from the future of in-office requirements, to reopening timelines. The one factor that resonated throughout was the need for flexibility.

The current landscape: remote work vs in-office  

We are seeing a pretty even split between in-office versus remote work requirements today, with many workplaces having adopted a hybrid model as well.

In regard to company expectations of remote work moving forward, we’re seeing some take a firm stance, requiring on-site work full-time and limited flexibility, which has ultimately limited their candidate pool. Clients who are requiring 100% on-site work but allow greater flexibility versus having a blanket policy for the whole organization are seeing more interest from a broader candidate pool for open positions.

From the candidate perspective, the majority want the opportunity to find an operating rhythm that works best for them and have the support of the organization they work for to do so. Even if they are not satisfied with their current role, many are staying put as a result of uncertainty about what a new company may require them to do when things open up. Even if a new role allows them to begin remote, they are not sure about future shifts to in-office requirements.

Reopening timeline

We are seeing the timeline of reopening offices be based predominantly on size and perception. Small to mid-size privately held organizations appear to be on a faster timeline, with some of those organizations having already reopened for normal business hours. It appears that the majority of these organizations will have put some type of reopening procedures in place by the beginning of Q3 at the latest. For larger and most likely public companies, they seem to have a much longer reopening plan in place, extending till beginning of Q4 if not January of 2022. While the health and wellbeing of employees remains priority, companies are using this time to evaluate their office space for the foreseeable future. Do they need less space or more space? Do you have a traditional office layout or more open space?

Flexibility is key

Some candidates are adamant about remaining remote and will not consider an opportunity if it requires in-office work. Meanwhile, we hear others miss the collaboration and interaction and are eager to get back into the office.

More often than not though, most candidates want some level of flexibility to work from home a few days a week or adjust their schedule to meet personal obligations such as virtual learning for their kids or care for an elderly family member, or simply they have found themselves to be more productive when they are working from home with less office distractions. If a candidate has flexibility in their current role and a new opportunity doesn’t offer it, they’re more likely to opt to stay in their current role to maintain that flexibility.

Companies that prioritize flexibility will see the greatest opportunity in terms of candidates who want to work there, and employees who want to stay. As we saw in the market in the past decade with healthcare benefits and costs being evaluated by candidates considering a move, we are now seeing remote work flexibility being another aspect of evaluation for a potential career move.

 We’ll continue to keep up the dialogue around workplace expectations and employee values when it comes to how and where they work.  And for those wondering, our own office is in a flexible state right now, which is why you don’t see all of our team members enjoying bagels today. When it’s all said and done, CSP will continue to offer a hybrid work schedule with some in-office team meetings expected.