The market for six-figure salary hybrid jobs has crashed

Businesspeople have a video conference call with employees working remotely in an office meeting room.

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High-paying hybrid work is here to stay — or is it?

Six-figure hybrid job availability crashed nearly 70% while posts for in-person jobs nearly doubled, according to the Q4 2023 High Paying Jobs report from jobs platform Ladders.

But six-figure-and-up workers are not taking this situation lying down.

Video conferencing technology company Owl Labs’ State of Hybrid Work 2023 report points to the notion that the higher the salary, the higher the likelihood that employees would not accept a job that required them to be in office full-time. Higher income also made workers more likely to start looking for a new position that offers hybrid flexibility, the report states.

This disconnect between what employers are offering and what highly paid workers want is causing tension in the return-to-office dance.

“Employers, managers and employees are all kind of walking on glass at the moment,” said Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs.

Leaders at many large companies, including Boeing and UPS, have made it clear they want people back in the office. This is to make sure that they’re maximizing the value of employees, particularly in challenging economic circumstances. However, employees of all stripes — particularly highly paid workers, as research notes — now know what it feels like to manage their personal and professional lives with hybrid flexibility, and they’re not willing to give it up.

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‘The tragedy of the commons’

In the case for hybrid, how are six-figure workers with executive or managerial roles different from individual employees? “There is a different standard where we talk about the high-income bracket,” said Rick Smith, professor of practice in management and organization at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Managers and other highly paid leaders have an expectation to give up some of that self-indulgence that can promote more remote or hybrid flexibility, Smith said. This is to avoid “the tragedy of the commons,” a phenomenon in which individuals act in their own self-interest to the detriment of the common good.

“If I choose to work remotely, that may benefit me, but it may not benefit the common good for the organization,” he said. For individual workers, this may not be as relatable — but the higher a worker climbs the ladder, Smith suggests, the more they owe to the organization.

Even so, the future of work requires a give and take between employees and employers, one in which the office is a reward and blanket mandates are bendable.

The office as a meaningful experience

Smith suggests that organizations who do pull hybrid workers back into the office for part of the time are going to be smarter about what those office visits entail.

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“When they come to the office, it’s a meaningful experience,” he said. Rather than pushing for people to return for individual, heads-down work, that in-office time will have a higher impact in the form of events, collaboration and other unifying activities that invigorate workers and their outputs.

Beyond the mandate

A return-to-office mandate is firm, right? Companies like IBM and JPMorgan Chase have made it seem so. But experts suggest that blanket policies are not all that they seem.

While Weishaupt believes that higher-paid work will have more accountability to the office, he noted, “You’re not going to be able to acquire the talent you want if you don’t provide flexibility.”

John Mullinix, director of growth marketing at Ladders, echoes this sentiment. “Smart companies will negotiate with these employees so they still can retain the best talent without taking away too much of the work-life balance,” he said. “And if they are taking away work-life balance, maybe those employees can negotiate higher salaries because of it.”

Weishaupt recognizes that individualized schedules are more difficult to manage with large companies of thousands of people. However, he said there’s flexibility and creativity once you get down to the manager level. “I don’t think you’re seeing all of the pieces sticking to that limited-scope mandate,” he said.

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Ultimately, experts agree that while hybrid job postings are on a decline, there is much more that is being left unsaid. They say these conversations can — and should — occur during the employment negotiation process.

The reality, Smith said, is that “if organizations come with policies that say everyone needs to come into the office nine to five, Monday through Friday, we will see attrition. We will see people with families, we will see more women, potentially, drop out. We will see some adverse effects with people with accessibility needs.”

It’s no surprise that women, who make up the majority of primary caregivers in the U.S., desire more work-from-home days than men. However, they also receive less work-from-home days than men post-Covid. More than satisfying work-life balance, hybrid flexibility in all roles — highly paid ones included — is an equity issue.

Smith’s hope, he said, is that organizational leaders are smart enough to recognize the crucial nature of hybrid flexibility to avoid backtracking on job accessibility as well as missing out on top six-figure talent.

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