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: Workers are burned out and want more flexibility — but remote work may not be the cure, survey says

As the pandemic grinds toward the two-year mark, more employers are highlighting their mix of in-office and at-home work arrangements in a quest to find workers and keep them on the payroll.

It’s a nod to flexibility for employees who need to strike a work-life balance during a public health crisis, but a Wednesday survey says workers view flexibility as a matter of “when,” not “where.”

Four in 10 workers say flexible work means choosing which hours of the day they are on the clock, and one quarter said flexible work means the capacity to choose which days they work, according to the survey from the software company Qualtrics XM, +1.90%.

Just 14% of employees said flexibility means the ability to work remotely from any location, the approximate 1,000-person survey said.

The insistence on more flexibility is especially important at this point, the survey notes. Almost six in 10 workers (58%) said their job is the main source of their mental health challenges at this point in the pandemic.

Employees said the top three ways to improve their mindsets would be more money (58%), a four-day work week (46%) and more flexibility to work wherever and whenever (36%).

Some large employers, including Amazon AMZN, +0.12% and Target TGT, +1.60%, have been playing up their capacity to offer flexible hours. But not all employers have the heft, capacity and lines of business that can give staff leeway on their schedule.

More than 15% of U.S. workers said they teleworked at least at one point in the past month due to the pandemic, the January jobs report showed. That’s up from 11.1% in December, and a reflection of the omicron variant that ripped through the country during the holiday season and now appears to be on the decline.

A record 7.8 million workers called in sick during January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.

Remote work has morphed from a contingency plan in the pandemic’s earlier stages — at least for the people with white-collar jobs — to a job expectation, some research shows. That’s also reflected in the new survey, where one-third of workers say they would take a 5% pay cut for the chance to indefinitely work away from any office.

But the survey also shows the toll when remote work mushes job duties with everyday life in the same place, all the time.

More than two thirds (69%) of the remote workers said the line between their work and personal life is blurred. Roughly equal parts say that’s a bad thing for their mental health (23%) and a good thing (24%).

Two in 10 of these remote workers say they are now starting work earlier, working longer and taking fewer sick days.

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