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Many companies plan to ask their employees to return to the office once a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available later this year.

Good luck with that.

Twenty-nine percent of working professionals say they would quit their jobs if they couldn’t continue working remotely, according to an online survey of 1,022 professionals by LiveCareer, an online resume and job search consulting service.

Forty-two percent of the U.S. workforce has been working from home full-time during the pandemic, according to a Stanford University study. Those teleworking are generally white-collar office workers who can perform their jobs with a phone and computer.

The survey underscores that at least some businesses and their workers may be on a collision course as life gradually returns to normal and employers start requiring staffers to come back to the mother ship.

Sixty-one percent of the white-collar workers surveyed said they want their company to let them work remotely indefinitely, even after the pandemic is over, while 79% said their company plans to return to on-site work eventually.

“Employees now expect to be able to work flexibly,” says Brian Kropp, chief of HR research at Gartner. “They feel they should be able to decide where and when they work. And if they are not given that choice, some will look for other employers that do offer that. 

“Flexibility over where they work will be viewed much like the way a 401k is viewed – as a basic component of the employment deal. Those who don’t offer it will have a harder time hiring and retaining employees.”

Professionals in some industries are less adamant about continuing to work from home. Just 7% of retail, wholesale, and distribution center employees would switch jobs if they couldn’t keep telecommuting. But 35% of information technology workers would bolt.

Those surveyed highlighted remote work’s advantages, with 64% citing flexibility. Four-four percent pointed to improved work-life balance; 40%, feeling safer; 29%, increased productivity; and 10%, being able to acquire new career skills.

There may be room for employers and their staffers to compromise. Ninety-percent of 130 human resources leaders surveyed by Gartner last month said they plan to let employees work remotely at least part of the time, even after a vaccine is widely adopted.

And 30% of professionals surveyed by LiveCareer said that if going back to the office is inevitable, they’d like to work there three days a week. Twenty-five percent said two days a week, and 19% said one day. Just 9% said four days.

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