CEOs are wrong about employees wanting to WFH—they actually want the best of both worlds

Luis Alvarez—Getty Images

For rage appliers or recently laid-off workers back on the hunt, there’s a new buzzword in town: “remote-first.”

Job hunters gradually came to favor these types of roles over fully remote jobs in 2022, job site Flexa Careers found in its latest “Flexible Working Index.” People working in “remote-first” roles spend the majority of their time working remotely, while maintaining the option to work in an office.

Flexa analyzed over 7,000 job listings from January through December of last year and spoke with over 9,700 job seekers about their preferences. Flexible work was—no surprise—especially enticing.

Specified core hours and set numbers of weekly work-from-home days are replacing the vague terms that defined the pandemic-era job hunt, like “hybrid work” and "flexible hours,” Molly Johnson-Jones, co-founder and CEO of Flexa Careers, said in a press release. That transparency and thoughtfulness will become the foundation for thriving businesses and teams, she added.

The percentage of job seekers who expressed a preference for remote-first roles rose from 9% to 31%. Most popular: jobs offering between three and four work-from-home days per week, listings for which shot up by 69%.

But jobs offering “core hours” have seen the largest rise of any phrase in a listing, growing from 16% to 31% of all postings last year. Flexa says this is likely due to companies’ bids to attract working parents, part-time students, or any worker eager to allot their time in a way that works for them. In these roles, staff are expected to work during certain windows, such as 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but have full flexibility beyond that.

Meanwhile, searches for fully remote roles fell from more than three-quarters (76%) of all job seekers in January to just over half (51%) by December. That’s no surprise; on average, fewer than a third of workers want a fully remote job, according to remote work expert and Stanford economics professor Nick Bloom.

Of all the ways of working companies have devised since initial lockdowns, hybrid work has proven it’s got staying power. Working mostly from home, plus a day or two in the office with team members, is often the best option for people’s finances, mental health, and time management. It also can be the answer to talent retention in a tight labor market.

The spike in interest for remote-first roles might stem from workers’ realization of just that. But it could also be because fully remote jobs are vanishing as CEOs increasingly push for a return to office. Billing a job as “remote-first” is a way for recruiters to appeal to workers’ desires to work from home at least some of the time.

Nonetheless, the number of "remote-first" roles advertised dropped from 33% to 19% last year, indicating that even semi-remote jobs are beginning to disappear. But on the whole, millions of job seekers still cling to the chance to log on from home.

“Combine the demand [for flexible roles] with an ever-tightening labor market, and it’s no wonder that we’ve seen ways of working evolve rapidly in 2022,” Johnson-Jones said. “Workers have made it clear that, in an ideal world, they’d like fully-flexible hours.”

But that’s not feasible in every industry, and there's no one size fits all answer to recruiting and retaining talent. Johnson-Jones says the solution is giving workers more choices—what she calls “freedom within a framework.” Or, as former Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield put it, when it comes to any future of work discussion, “people don’t want to be told what to do.”

This story was originally featured on

More from Fortune:
Olympic legend Usain Bolt lost $12 million in savings to a scam. Only $12,000 remains in his account
Meghan Markle’s real sin that the British public can’t forgive–and Americans can’t understand
‘It just doesn’t work.’ The world’s best restaurant is shutting down as its owner calls the modern fine dining model ‘unsustainable’
Bob Iger just put his foot down and told Disney employees to come back into the office