September 16, 2022 7:00am

Cleveland Leaders Prefer Going to the Office Far More than the Average Worker

Collaboration with coworkers, personal productivity top reasons why

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Cleveland, OH Correspondent
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Though experiences and preferences vary widely, the plurality of respondents in this month's Power Poll said they preferred a fully in-person working arrangement. Thirty-five percent said they currently worked for companies or organizations where they were expected to report in-person full-time, but 47% said that this was actually what they preferred.

That preference is far in excess of the national average, where, (at least according to Gallup), the majority of workers prefer some form of remote work. Among Cleveland's leaders who participated in this month's poll, 38% said that a hybrid model, with 2-3 days at the office and 2-3 days at home or a remote location, was what they'd choose if they could. This was the second-most popular answer.

Those who prefer in-person work and those who prefer remote work often cite versions of the same reasons to explain their preference. In this month's poll, for example, "personal productivity" was among the top three ranked reasons in both categories. That's not entirely surprising. Different workers feel more productive in different environments.

Likewise, "work/life balance" was among the three most popular reasons in both camps. Those who cited it as an explanation for their in-person preference likely believe that work-life balance is easier to achieve when "work" and "life" are separated by time and space. On the flipside, those who cited it as a reason for their remote preference likely believe that work-life balance is easier to achieve with the scheduling flexibility that remote work affords.

While a number of respondents said that their working preference was due to a number of factors, and that ranking the top three reasons was insufficient, there was still a runaway favorite. The most popular answer in either group was "engagement and collaboration with coworkers" among those who preferred in-person work. More than half of respondents ranked it first.

Collaboration and engagement take many forms, and respondents were keen to elaborate when asked to specify or add nuance to their preferences. One noted that cultivating young talent was far easier in person, where mentorship and coaching opportunities can flourish. Another noted engagement with organizational stakeholders was just as important as engagement with colleagues, and that this engagement often happens on the sidewalk or out for coffee.

Yet another respondent was blunt about their preference for in-person work.

"We're a manufacturing company," they said. "We can't produce product remotely."

Those with young children and families appeared to be split on the issue. One respondent said they appreciated that remote work allowed them to be home to take care of family pets and to be present "when the bus drops off the kid." Another took the opposite view, and said that when they worked from home briefly, they found themselves "constantly shooing kids away." One respondent added the perspective that many offices, especially those downtown, aren't fully accessible, and remote work is a vital option for disabled workers.

Despite the rich diversity of individual preferences, respondents largely agreed that the office landscape had changed dramatically, and that the resulting vacancies in the downtown office market (estimated to be in the neighborhood of 18-20% in a recent Crain's report) posed a serious threat to Cleveland's economy and culture. Seventy-five percent either "Definitely" or "Somewhat" agreed with that assessment, while only 18% "Somewhat" or "Definitely" disagreed.

This month's Cleveland poll was conducted online Tuesday through Thursday. It should not be confused with scientific research. It attempts to provide insight into the thinking of those with power and influence in the region by collecting answers to newsy questions from leaders in business, politics, nonprofits and media. The poll is catching on. For the third straight month, the number of respondents in Cleveland increased, with 66 people participating compared to 56 last month and 49 the month before.

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