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As stay-at-home orders forced companies to quickly pivot their business models during the COVID-19 global pandemic, necessity and innovation partnered together to fast forward trends already in motion. And while most everyone is glad to leave 2020 in the dust, one work model will be sticking around into the coming years. Companies and workers no longer need to ask the question “is remote work here to stay?” Remote work is poised to be the new normal in 2021.
Forget about “casual Friday,” remote workers can continue working in their PJ’s long after the pandemic is over. Three in five employees in the United States say they would prefer to keep working from home, according to a 2020 Gallup poll. The good news for them is many employers are looking to at least partially continue with the work from home model, using a hybrid approach. A Gartner survey revealed 74 percent of CFOs and finance leaders intend to shift some employees to permanent remote work. It makes good dollars and cents for both employer and employee, as companies find they can save money on office real estate while employees continue to relocate to the suburbs in droves.
Although companies large, medium and small had to maneuver at record speed in order to set up remote operations, the lessons learned paved the way forward. Just how necessary is a head office, anyway? For companies like REI, the answer was to sell their headquarters, set up multiple satellite offices and “lean into” the work from home model. The benefits for companies, aside from the obvious savings on expensive office space in cities like Seattle, Silicon Valley or Manhattan, is that employers will be free to recruit beyond borders and source talent from anywhere in the country and possibly the world.
Likewise, workers no longer chained to their desks, will continue to flee crowded metropolises like New York to find refuge in more spacious cities and towns across the country like Denver, which ranked as the 4th hottest real estate market during the pandemic, according to reporting by CBS Denver. Swapping a 2-bedroom high-rise condo for 4 or 6-bedroom house for nearly the same price, or maybe even less, means employees are free to create their workspace beyond the confines of the cubicle, spend more time with their kids and enjoy lower costs of living now that the daily commute has been eliminated from the financial equation.
In years past, employers would begrudgingly allow a select few, highly trusted and proven employees to work from home, often leery to extend the perk for fear that productivity would dip once the employee was out of the office and out of the boss’ site. Thanks to the forced stay-at-home orders of 2020 coupled with wider adoption of corporate video communication technology like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft’s Teams and others, remote workers are more productive and engaged than ever.
Whether it’s sitting on the couch, at the kitchen coffee table or even with a laptop in bed, remote productivity increased so much in some sectors during the pandemic, the percentage of workers around the world permanently working from home is expected to double in 2021, according to a survey by Enterprise Technology Research of about 1,200 chief information officers.
Wise managers and employers will embrace the new reality and let go of outdated mindsets. An increase in productivity is proving the work from home model works. According to a survey by Airtasker, remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year, on average, than those who worked in an office. Employees often note they are happier and feel they are indeed more productive than they were in traditional offices. Similarly, management is realizing that the lengthy mandatory meetings in the conference room aren’t as necessary as once thought.
Remote working isn’t for every company or every employee. Smart companies will have to decide whether a fully remote, hybrid or traditional working model is right for their brand, business model and everyone involved.
For the three out of five employees who said they’d prefer to stick the work from home model after the pandemic ends, there are the other two who’d rather go back to the office. Blending the lines between work and home is exacerbated when people are always connected through technology. The effects can be overwhelming while at the same time isolating.
With remote work, human resource execs and management will not share as much face time with employees and so they’ll have to figure out ways to assess employee satisfaction and wellness, including mental health. Nineteen percent of those surveyed in Buffer’s State of Remote Work - 2019 said they struggle with loneliness and 22 percent found it challenging to unplug from work.
And while digital systems and processes used during the pandemic helped teams learn how to stay connected under strict stay-at-home orders, the transition to remote work wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. In a Stanford study, only 49 percent of responders admitted they could work privately in a room other than their bedroom. And only two-thirds of those surveyed said they had internet connection fast enough for video conferencing. Buffer surveys over the past three years noted “the majority of organizations with remote workers don’t pay for monthly expenses associated with remote work.” That said, there can also be times when face-to-face meetings with either clients or collaborating between colleagues is more suited to a traditional office setting than meeting in a co-working space or coffee shop. These examples pose both obstacles and opportunities for employers as to how they can assist workers and build better remote teams.
But breaking down the boundaries of 9-5 seems to reveal significant pros, which so far, outweigh the struggles; and for these reasons, it’s likely the remote work trend will only increase before it slows.
Of the top perk to working remotely in 2020, 32 percent cited “flexible schedule” as the leading benefit to working from home in Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work report, followed by “ability to work from anywhere,” “not having to commute” and “ability to spend time with family.” But perhaps the biggest takeaway – “Remote workers are happiest when they spend more than 76 percent of their time working remotely.”
And while employees continue to demand some percentage of their work be remote, Millennials (who are already more inclined to working in remote teams) will also age into management roles, putting the decision in their hands as to how much of the team works remotely and from where. No doubt, this is the new normal.
Published on Mar 9, 2021
<p>As stay-at-home orders forced companies to quickly pivot their business models during the COVID-19 global pandemic, necessity and innovation partnered together to fast forward trends already in motion. And while most everyone is glad to leave 2020 in the dust, one work model will be sticking around into the coming years. Companies and workers no longer need to ask the question “is remote work here to stay?” Remote work is poised to be the new normal in 2021. Here's what businesses should know. </p>