The Rise of Remote Work—Is it the New Normal?
The emergence of the COVID pandemic created a new foundation for the future of the workplace. As one of many precautions put in place for the safety of the populace, remote work was established almost unanimously amongst organizations in the United States. But at what point did our modern workforce begin to desire this remote working schedule beyond the boundaries of the pandemic?
How Has the Pandemic Shaped the Remote Work Movement?
The ability to cut costs, and remove unnecessary office space has proven to be an attractive measure on the side of the employer. These costs can include overhead, parking reimbursements, as well as the added costs of amenities and excess technology provided in a usual office environment.
From an employee perspective, remote work has had a positive impact on work-life balance. For starters, it has helped to eliminate costs associated with commuting such as paid parking and gasoline. In addition, employees now have access to many aspects of their home life that were not previously available. This includes child care and even pet care, both of which can be a heavy monetary burden on employees.
Looking at the history of remote work, it is hard to imagine how fast the current movement has taken off. After all, when you look back on the companies who have tried it in the past, it often ended in failure. When Richard Laermer allowed his employees to work remotely on Fridays, he claimed that it ended in disaster. Employees were rarely available, and it became more akin to a long weekend. IBM had a similar experience nearly a decade ago when they decided to bring back thousands of employees into the office due to a decline in production.
Based on these examples, it only makes sense that organizations would be hesitant. This often stems from a lack of trust. Will employees get work accomplished and remain productive if they are not being watched over 24/7?
As this pandemic era has shown us, remote work is more than a possibility—it actually works. It has become so desirable, that employees would sooner quit their jobs than be relegated to an office commute five days a week again. Bloomberg references a survey from May of 2021, that included over 1,000 U.S. adults. The survey concluded that 39% of those adults would quit their job before returning to a traditional in-office work environment. And amongst millennials and younger, the number was closer to 49%.
What Can You Expect Moving Forward?
Gallup decided to take a closer look at what the numbers had to say about Americans’ preference for a post-pandemic remote working environment. To start—of the 125 million full-time positions in America, 50% have claimed their work could be accomplished remotely. That means nearly 60 million Americans believe that they could complete their required work without ever having to go into the office.
Gallup took this even further by asking a portion of those employees whether they themselves would prefer to work remotely or from the office. 30% said that they would rather work from home than ever go into the office. 10% claimed that they would prefer to work exclusively in the office, while the remaining 60% preferred a hybrid schedule, primarily working 2 or 3 days in the office.
The purpose of this study by Gallup was to forecast how many employees would be working from home in 2022 as opposed to those in 2019 before the pandemic. The team estimated that there would be an approximate 37% reduction of in-person employees. In other words, 37% of employees who worked in an office behind a desk in 2019, will be working remotely in 2022.
Why Organizations Need to Embrace this Change
Change has always been a foundational element of our society. It is the basis of progress, and the pandemic was the inciting incident that pressed us toward this desire for a redesigned work schedule.
It is futile to remain forever opposed to change. Businesses and organizations alike will need to find ways to adapt to this new way of working should this trend continue to grow. Organizations unwilling to offer more flexibility may find themselves struggling to retain top talent, and may even lose that talent to the competition.
How Can Organizations Best Prepare?
Organizations can best prepare for these changes by offering more nuanced discussions about how to balance the benefits of being in the office, with the flexibility of working remotely. It is crucial that organizations begin working on new strategies now so that they can excel in the new year and gain a leg up on the competition.
If young talent is seeking work flexibility, then organizations will need to alter their strategies to best allow for this possibility moving forward. In the same way that benefits have become such a large selling point for new employees, remote work is a new luxury being heavily sought after. With the competitiveness of the market, organizations cannot afford to miss out on employees due to rigid workplace culture.
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