remote work illustration
Insights

Remote Jobs vs Return to Office Trends Revealed by Web Metrics

June 14, 2022 | Updated August 1, 2022

As companies got serious about returning to office policies in recent months, employees who liked the work-from-home lifestyle got serious about looking for new opportunities. Job sites and employers catering to the work-from-home crowd benefitted from that swell in interest.

Key takeaways 

  • Traffic to the AirBnb careers site spiked to nearly 88,500 visits on April 29, the day after the company announced a liberal “work from anywhere policy,” compared with under 25,000 daily visits a few days before. For the month of May, traffic to careers.airbnb.com was up 162.5% year over year to nearly 860,500. These numbers are Similarweb estimates for desktop and mobile web.
  • Flexjobs, a leading jobs website focused on remote and flexible work arrangements, attracted more than 3 million visits in May. That’s an increase of 18%, year over year. In March and April, traffic was up over 30%, year over year.
  • Monthly search volume on “remote work” and related terms topped 400,000 in January and has been in the range of 300,000+ to 400,000 for the past year, according to Similarweb estimates. In the U.S., remote work search volume was about 25% higher in January than it was in June, although it’s tapered off since then.
  • Interest in remote work is particularly intense in a few key industries such as tech, corporate IT, and marketing. In April, there were more than 36,500 searches for “remote marketing,” up more than 540% from January’s level.

Get back to where you once belonged?

The COVID-19 pandemic made remote work a virtual necessity for many white-collar workers, and periodic resurgences in the infection rates combined with the emergence of new virus variants slowed the rate at which companies recalled those workers to the office. In the process, remote work became so normalized that those employees who learned to like it have been reluctant to give it up.

After announcing on again, off again, plans to get people back to the office, many companies started getting serious about curtailing remote work in March, when CNBC reported that 50% of companies wanted to see employees back in the office 5 days a week. More recently, a survey found that only 4% of companies are telling everyone they must return to the office (the definition of “everyone” could be part of the issue, since some jobs are more remote-friendly than others). The Wall Street Journal reported that tech employees, in particular, are rebelling against the return to office mandates.

Chart: AirBnb's career site after work from anywhere policy announcement

 

Companies like Airbnb and Spotify, which make a point of welcoming remote work, seem to benefit significantly from publicizing those policies. That effect seems to be more pronounced than any downside for companies with a stringent return to office policies. For example, we didn’t see any significant loss in traffic to the career pages of Tesla or SpaceX after Elon Musk was in the news for a leaked memo about an ultimatum that employees return. Nor do the big financial services companies like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs seem to be suffering from a lack of career page traffic, despite their insistence on getting employees back in the office.

Chart: remote friendly vs return to office career sites

Of course, there are many other factors in play in the job market. For example, Coinbase, which is shown as a point of comparison in the chart above, probably benefited as much or more from the interest in the potential of cryptocurrencies as it did from its permissive remote work policy and is now suffering through a crypto crash. Still, you can see how Airbnb zoomed ahead in percentage gains on traffic after its work-from-home announcement.

Spotify, another remote-friendly company, got more than 360,000 visits to its lifeatspotify.com careers website in January and traffic has consistently topped 270,000 monthly visits since then.

Negotiating for permanent remote work 

Negotiating to make a Covid-inspired remote work arrangement permanent is an emerging topic where Flexjobs and the Harvard Business Review have a couple of the most cited articles, which remain popular months after they were first published. Employees who have grown to prefer the work-from-home lifestyle want to know whether to attempt to negotiate – and, if so, how best to broach the subject – if they are being told to return to the office.

Chart: articles on how to negotiate remote work

We can also see there was a recent spike in search interest on the topic in March, a month when many employers were getting more serious about pushing employees to return to the office.

Chart: search on how to negotiate remote work

Searching for Remote Work

Interest in remote work, as expressed through search, seems to be particularly intense in a few job categories, such as tech and marketing, and particularly within the U.S. In May, the volume of U.S. searches on topics related to remote marketing jobs was 314% higher than it was a year ago (June 2021). There was an even bigger spike in April when the volume of those searches from within the U.S. was up more than 500% from where it was at the beginning of the year. Just a few months ago, many companies were repeatedly delaying the return to office plans they had announced. Some still are.

Here is what the search picture looks like worldwide:

Search on remote work and related terms worldwide

…and for the U.S.

Search for remote work U.S.

Traffic to remote work job sites keeps climbing

Most job websites now allow you to search specifically for remote jobs as an alternative to searching for jobs within a geographical reason, but while they were retooling their search and categorization several job sites specifically focused on remote and flexible work opportunities emerged on the scene, with Flexjobs foremost among them. Traffic to flexjobs.com has been rising steadily and particularly surged ahead in March and April when return to the office plans began to move ahead.

Chart: traffic to remote work job sites

For another site in this category, weworkremotely.com, traffic was up almost 73% in May.

Job seekers searching for options

Plenty of people hated working from home when it was compulsory, feeling isolated and adrift during their exile from the office, and were happy to see their colleagues in person again. At the other extreme, many of those whose work could be done perfectly well from anywhere – including software developers and many marketing professionals – resented being told to return to their commute and cubicles. Or they joined the company when remote work was acceptable and aren’t clear why it would be suddenly unacceptable. Clearly, there are enough of those people to have a significant impact on the shape of the job market.

For their part, many employers are still figuring out whether to push for a complete or near-complete return of employees to the office and, if so, how hard and how fast to push. Or they are attempting to compromise with flexible so-called hybrid arrangements like three days in the office, two days remote.

While compromise may be the right long-term policy for many employers, those like Airbnb and Spotify who compete for top tech talent are seeing a bigger benefit from making a point of welcoming fully remote employees.

The Similarweb Insights Newsroom is available to pull additional or updated data on request for the news media (journalists are invited to write to press@similarweb.com). When citing our data, please reference Similarweb as the source and link back to the most relevant blog post or similarweb.com/corp/blog/insights/.

Contact: For more information, please contact Richard Krueger at richard.krueger@similarweb.com.

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Report By: David F. Carr, Senior Insights Manager

Methodology

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