“I think they do have more power now,” Ms. Brown said. “Companies are listening to their employees more than ever before, and I think that’s partly because the war for talent is greater than ever.”

Even IBM, which for much of the 20th century had a reputation for a formal office culture where men were expected to wear suits and ties every day, is among the companies that are essentially letting employees set the terms of how and when they do their work.

Arvind Krishna, the chief executive of IBM, said he no longer cared whether office workers showed up at 5 a.m. or 11 a.m., or whether their workday ended at 3 p.m. or 9 p.m., so long as they were productive.

“Why should I, as an employer, care as long as you can get the work done and you’re highly productive?” he asked. “I should not try to be overly dictatorial about that.”

The broad deference to employees is a stark change for corporate America. For decades, workers put in longer hours and extra days, working, on average, an additional full month more per year than in 1980, according to the Pew Research Center. Given that, and the fact that wages have not kept up with increases in productivity, perhaps it’s not surprising that employees are eager to keep working from home, reclaiming some measure of independence.

“What employees are saying they want in their work environment going forward is going to be a lot more important than a bunch of senior executives at the top of an organization determining what that will be,” said Andi Owen, the chief executive of MillerKnoll, the maker of the Aeron chair and other office furniture, which has yet to bring all of its own white-collar workers back full time.

It was input from Upwork employees that left Ms. Brown with no hesitation about re-closing the Chicago office, or with permanently shutting down the company’s former headquarters in Silicon Valley earlier in the pandemic.

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