If you are an office manager who still considers remote work as nothing more than a desirable perk, you’re definitely in the minority. For workers itching to go back to the office, be prepared to be somewhat disappointed. Even if you do return, your office probably won’t be the same.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the future of work on a fast-track – and it’s quite apparently here to stay.
Not only did people welcome remote work in the midst of the pandemic, they have now grown to expect it.
Working from home has become a key factor for many job seekers when evaluating new career opportunities, according to recent studies.
This trend does not apply to new talent alone. For many, working from home during the pandemic has allowed much-needed relief from office politics, the daily commute, and the gossip around the copy machine.
Why Working from Home Works
The tech company, Owl Labs, recently concluded a study among people who have been working from home during the pandemic. The results of the study indicate that most of these workers prefer to continue working from home when the pandemic subsides.
“I don’t know if it’s impossible, but it’s going to be very, very hard to walk back,” says Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield.
Why that’s the case should be obvious. That is, if – like many around the world – you’ve been using the kitchen counter or an ironing board as a stand-up desk lately.
The Owl Labs report shows that, on average, workers saved nearly $500 a month working from home.
Working from home means less money for gas and transport – and less expenditures for lunches out.
Some of the savings might actually come from not having to spend money on clothes, too.
While quite a few have embraced dressing for work even when working from home, some relish the comfort of working in their underwear or even their bedtime lingerie.
The Future of Work is at Home
The work-from-home arrangement has permitted benefits for the other side of the labor market, too, according to experts.
Companies had previously been reluctant to allow employees to work from home because of inertia and deep-rooted norms, says Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter.
But the pandemic has forced nearly two out of three people to work remotely, making it clear just how much work can be done from home.
Below are some of the highlights of the Owl Labs report.
- Almost 70 percent of full-time workers in the US are working from home during the pandemic.
- Some 75 percent of the workers are just as productive – or even more so – while working from home.
- One in five people report working more during the lockdowns, says the Owl Labs report.
- Some 80 percent of the respondents expect to work from home at least three times a week after the pandemic.
- Around 44 percent of those now working from home do not find it necessary to get dressed up for video meetings.
- About 80 percent agree that there should be one day a week with no meetings at all.
- Only around 20 to 25 percent of companies pay or share the cost of home office equipment, furniture, and cable connections.
- The majority of the respondents to the Owl Labs survey – 81 percent – think their employer will support remote work after the pandemic.
Can the Trend Really Last?
Now, as efforts to reopen the world’s economy intensify, so do the feelings of dread some feel at the idea of returning to the office.
Proponents of online work have begun to worry that they – and the companies for which they work – will lose important benefits discovered during the pandemic.
They need not worry too much, as it turns out. In the past months, several high-profile executives announced sweeping plans to permanently increase the number of employees operating outside the office.
Mark Zuckerberg has said he expects 50 percent of his work force to be doing their jobs from home in as little as five years. Twitter’s leadership recently announced that any employee who wants to telecommute can now do so – forever.
In all, close to 80 percent of organizations surveyed by S&P Global Market Intelligence said they’ve expanded universal work-from-home policies as a result of COVID-19. About 67 percent expect these policies to remain in place either permanently or for the long-term.
Getting Back to Real Work
The fact is, working from home might be the only way forward for countless small and struggling companies. Financial realities might even speed up the work-from-home trend.
When workers began working from home, many companies began desperately trying to shed unnecessary office space.
Getting rid of empty desks and offices is, of course, an easy way to reduce costs and increase savings as economies begin to rebound.
Office real estate is already plunging in value as employers try to renegotiate their rent contracts, according to recent reports.
That’s not such a bad thing – unless you’re in the business of selling office real estate.
Indeed, our work future will likely mean no more commuting, no more confronting the rush hour traffic, and no more small talk.
The new workplace is a perfect setting for those who are happy to spend all day with their kids, a dog, and a spreadsheet or word processor.
But tougher times might be ahead for people who see the office mainly as a place to chat and glad-hand their way up the ladder.
The post-pandemic workplace will have fewer lunches, parties, and conferences where idle chatterers can make their mark.
From now on, people who will succeed are likely to be those who can generate actual results. The future, it seems clear, will belong to the nerds who really make a difference.
So, this early, if your main job skill is schmoozing and building petty office alliances, you might want to start learning the art of actually working.