RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – A new survey analyzing the responses of small business owners nationwide found that 39% would consider firing employees that refused to return to in-person, full-time work environments. And 40% say they will require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The data for the study stems from the results of an online survey designed and paid for by and administered by the online survey platform Pollfish.

Interestingly the same percentage of respondents noted that they would not fire employees who refused to return to offices.

Yet employees may have a different expectation, as a study from WeWork, released in April 2021, found that three-quarters of employees reported that the flexibility to work from a location of their choosing was more than other company benefits.  Those findings include 1 in 4 respondents that said they’d be willing to give up healthcare coverage and cash bonuses for the flexibility to work where they prefer.

North Carolina firms have reported varying expectations about return-to-work with firms such as IBM and Cree offering flexibility of choice. Bank of America expects vaccinated workers back in the office in September.

In the Digital survey, 32% of the 1,500 businesses responded that even prior to the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic they employed a workforce primarily composed of remote-based employees. Those companies responses were eliminated from the rest of the survey and analysis.  Those businesses that had primarily in-person workforces during the pandemic were also screened out of the survey, said.

Employer resistance to at-home work or hybrid work environments might negatively impact their company, going forward  if employees are going to place a higher value on a company’s remote or hybrid work policy.

“COVID-19 lockdowns didn’t create the move towards a remote workforce—it just accelerated the inevitable,” said Dennis Consorte, an employee of that works with small businesses, in the analysis of the data.  “Companies that focus on physical location and hours worked will be behind the curve. They should focus instead on the value produced by their extended teams. Otherwise, their most valued employees may seek out remote opportunities elsewhere.”

Where to work: Most employees want flexible, hybrid environments, study finds

In the survey, 28 responses came from North Carolina-based companies, and half of those who responded reported they had a workforce that was primarily remote all or most of the time, even prior to the pandemic.  All respondents answered a question regarding whether employers would consider the opinions of their employees.

Nationwide, nearly half of respondents noted that, for their business, most job functions can only be performed in person, indicating that is one potential factor for employers as they consider the future of their workplace.

Additionally, 45% of respondents shared that employee productivity decreased as a result of remote-based work, and 32% noted that miscommunications between employees increased in a remote work environment.

The survey found that companies mandating employees return to an office full-time have a more unfavorable view of working remotely than those that are choosing remote or hybrid work environments for their employees: 59% of respondents who noted their company is mandating a return to in-person work also said that employees were less productive while working from home, compared to 39% of the respondents who shared that their company is letting remote work continue.

A big majority – 67% –  of technology and IT companies indicated they would be more likely to hire a new employee who wanted to work on-site at an office location, even if remote work was an option available to them, compared to 54% of all respondents.

Respondents self-identified as small businesses, said a spokesperson.