The share of Americans working remotely has fallen to the lowest level since the end of the pandemic, as employers ramp up return-to-office mandates for millions of workers.

In its latest Household Pulse Survey, the Census Bureau reported that fewer than 26% of American homes still have someone working remotely at least one day per week, down sharply from 37% in early 2021.

Work-from-home rates have fallen across all 50 states since the height of the pandemic, with only seven states plus Washington, D.C., maintaining a 33% remote rate.

The decline in remote work rates has been uneven across states, with no “one cohesive explanation” for why that’s the case, according to Bloomberg.

While employers appear to be regaining the upper hand over workplace flexibility and mobility, the fight is far from over.

Boardrooms clash over return-to-office mandates

Nearly 75% of U.S. companies say that return-to-office mandates could spark disagreements in boardrooms, according to a survey of 170 human resource executives conducted by Gartner.

They say their managers aren’t prepared to deal with the challenges that arise when workers no longer have the flexibility to work from home whenever they like.

“Leaders just don’t agree on what the requirements should be,” said Gartner research director Caitlin Duffy. “There is so much variation across teams, functions, and the nature of what roles require. Managers have been left to figure it out for their teams and that’s hard.”

Numerous studies, conducted before and during the pandemic, have attempted to quantify the impact of remote work on productivity.

For example, Stanford University published a study in 2015 showing that remote work boosted productivity by 13%. On the other hand, a 2020 study that tracked 60,000 Microsoft employees found that remote work led to a 10% increase in weekly hours.

Research conducted by Gartner at the start of Covid found that 74% of companies wanted to adopt remote work permanently because of cost savings.

The tug-of-war continues

While remote jobs are fewer and farther between these days, that hasn’t stopped Americans from applying.

In August, remote or hybrid job posts attracted more than one-half of all applications in 157 of the largest metro areas, according to LinkedIn data analyzed by Bloomberg. All the while, the number of hybrid or remote job posts has declined since 2022.

There’s a reason why so many Americans prefer to stay remote. Many moved out of cities and into the suburbs during the pandemic, where they enjoyed more space, better value, and lower housing costs.

According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of Redfin, one in ten U.S. home sellers are former remote workers who are being called back into the office.

They’d rather stay remote, but changing work policies forces them back into the office.

According to a 2022 McKinsey survey, workers who’ve had a taste of remote or flexible work want more of it. The survey revealed that when workers are offered a hybrid or remote job, 87% of them take it.