And we can’t help but wonder, will we ever go back to the way things were prior to March 2020?Remote working has been a growing trend for years. Millions of Americans make a full-time living working from the comfort of their own homes. Millions more flex back and forth between corporate offices and home offices. So while COVID-19 isn’t the reason for remote working, it’s certainly the driving factor behind its exponential growth over the past few months.
It’s a Remote World…
Like it or not, for better or worse, we’re living in times of social isolation and sheltering in place. As a result, we’re also working in a remote world. Businesses that have required to work in the office are now requiring workers to clock in from home.
According to data from a Gallup Panel study, 31 percent of employed adults were working from home in mid-March specifically because of the coronavirus. That number quickly rose to 49 percent just a few days later, and then 59 percent the week following. Remote work eventually leveled off at roughly 62 percent in mid-April, where it stayed for a couple of months. Since then, many professionals have trickled back into the traditional workplace. But tens of millions of employees continue to work remotely.
“With such a large share of the U.S. workforce converting to remote work, the question is what happens next as businesses incrementally reopen and start inviting (or, in some cases, requiring) workers to return?” Gallup asks in its report. “The answer may partly depend on workers’ willingness to return to the office.”
The study shows that 26 percent of remote workers would like to return to their office if/when it opens back up. Another 25 percent say they’d prefer to work from home because of concerns over the virus. But here’s the most interesting statistic: 49 percent of remote workers – or roughly one out of every two – want to continue working from home “because they prefer it.”
That’s a number that businesses can’t ignore – nor should they. Because as you’ll see in the following section, there are plenty of benefits to allowing employees to work from home.
The Benefits of Remote Work (for Businesses)
Traditionally, working from home has been seen as a nice perk for employees. But few have taken the time to understand or appreciate just how advantageous it is for companies. Here’s a look at some of the business-side benefits:
Greater employee productivity. According to one study, employees who work remotely end up working 1.4 more days per month than employees who work strictly out of the office. That adds up to an extra 16.8 days per year – more than three additional work weeks.
Greater employee satisfaction. Another study shows that full-time remote workers are 22 percent happier in their jobs than their office-bound counterparts. That provides a huge boost in performance, as well as employee retention.
Another study shows that full-time remote workers are 22 percent happier in their jobs than their office-bound counterparts. That provides a huge boost in performance, as well as employee retention.
It’s also a big selling point when it comes to attracting and onboarding talent. (Who doesn’t want to work for a company where current employees are thrilled to be a part of the organization?)
Lower overhead costs. Remote working brings significant savings for businesses, in terms of overhead. When companies go fully virtual, they’re able to ditch expensive commercial office space and all of the costs that come along with it (like utilities, property tax, insurance, equipment, etc.) This can result in six-, seven-, and even eight-figure annual savings.
Larger talent pool/reach. When it comes to hiring employees, virtual businesses have the ability to reach beyond their city or zip code and pursue candidates all over the world. This increases the quality and depth of the talent pool – making it more likely that the organization is able to source the best talent.
Over the past few months, more organizations have become intimately aware of these benefits. And the longer this pandemic lasts, the more likely it is that things will continue to move in a remote trajectory.
Is Remote Work the New Normal?
When we look to the future (which could mean anything from six months to 15 years from now), there are two different theaters of thought in play. If you’re wondering whether remote work is going to become the new normal (outside of times of pandemic), you have to look at it from both a financial perspective, as well as an emotional/evolutionary vantage point.
We’ll begin by looking at the financials. Because, let’s be honest, money talks in the business world. And if you follow the trail of cash, you’ll discover that remote working has true staying power.
According to Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics, “A typical employer can save about $11,000/year for every person who works remotely half of the time. Employees can save between $2,500 and $4,000 a year (working remotely half the time) and even more if they are able to move to a less expensive area and work remotely full time.”
But it’s not all about money. There’s also a practical side to this discussion. We’re living in a world where technology has made it possible to work from anywhere. Lister and her team estimate that 56 percent of the U.S. workforce has a job that is compatible with remote working (at least part-time). And when you combine this with the increased desire for work-life balance, it makes sense that employees would crave work-from-home opportunities (and demand them from employers).
Looking to the Future
It’s unfortunate that it’s taken a deadly global pandemic to finally turn this slow-burning ember into a blazing bonfire. But now that the gasoline has been poured, remote working is prepared to explode. And that flame will continue to burn for months, years, and decades to follow. The only question is, which businesses will get in on the movement first?