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Is remote work here to stay?

Even a year into the coronavirus pandemic, remote work is still the new norm for many companies around the world. But with vaccines being distributed, it’s time to start thinking about what comes next. Has this global health crisis left a permanent imprint on business in the form of remote work?

To find out, we conducted research of the leading companies in the world alongside a survey across a variety of mostly high tech companies of all shapes and sizes to find out where the trend lines are really moving.

Dozens of the largest, most influential companies in the world are making plans for remote work to be a part of their future in some way shape or form. Google, Apple, Indeed, Airbnb and many others have extended their work-from-home policies through most of 2021 and intend to allow most if not all of their employees the option to put in at least half of their work hours at home. Perhaps even more telling, companies like Uber and Airbnb have invested money in helping employees set up an effective work station at home and retailer REI is selling its brand new campus to “lean into remote working as an engrained, supported, and normalized model.”

Put all that together with announcements from Facebook and Twitter and remote work from home would become a permanent option for their employees and it appears that WFH isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Meanwhile, studies are showing that employees are enjoying the perks of having more time at home. According to a Leadership IQ report, just 9% would prefer to sit in the office full time if given the choice. Many (39%) would choose to work from home one or two days per week.

Any permanent shift away from an organized workplace would come with major implications for much of the global economy as a whole. What about the businesses that depend on nearby office workers to stay afloat? Employees will enjoy fewer commute hours and more time for family, but society at large could change in unexpected ways. More digital workers in the market means more companies will have access to talent from around the globe, an exciting possibility for many. Office space is likely to decrease dramatically, changing the shape and character of cities.

From the personal aspect, there are some concerns that the hybrid work model could harm company culture and connectivity. In that case, it becomes more crucial than ever to engage in team-building activities and keep everyone engaged and motivated with constant innovation. A social portal for your organization is one great tool to help build a community among employees. Technology can be utilized to maintain engagement, particularly in the realm of communication. Use video content or enroll your employees in an online course together.

And as a wider aspect for employers, continued remote work poses a unique set of challenges that must be overcome in order to unlock the opportunities waiting just behind them. Internal communication will continue to be an important topic, and heavy investments will need to be made into home offices and equipment. Cybersecurity will gain a new level of importance, even for smaller companies, and perhaps most interesting, both employers and employees will have to figure out where to draw a new line between their professional and personal lives.

Taking all these factors into consideration, a hybrid work model is naturally emerging, combining the ability to work from home with regular visits to the office. Our survey showed that the hybrid work model is usually a managerial change rather than a contractual one, and aims to take advantage of the best of both worlds. Whatever the division may be between time spent in the office or at home, employees and employers alike enjoy a greater amount of flexibility. Leaning into this advantage, employers often establish a working schedule for every individual employee and may choose to downplay this bonus with job candidates to keep their options open.

So, with all that in mind, what did we actually discover in our survey? After the pandemic,

  • Very few companies plan to stick to 100% remote work. Despite the savings this could give them, they find it more important to have a work environment that includes face-to-face human interaction.
  • Over half plan to allow for a hybrid model, with the average preference being three work days spent in the office each week.
  • 25% of companies plan to return fully to working on site.

These figures certainly point to a significant change in attitude and perception of remote work from pre-pandemic times, but many companies are still struggling to decide just how transparent to be with their new work models, fearing commitment to methods that may not stand the test of time.

  • Almost 30% say they will only make internal statements regarding their work model.
  • Almost half say they have or will make their decisions known internally and externally to candidates. However, just 10% say they will do so formally.

This means that the vast majority choose not to make public commitments to one model or another. For candidates however, this information is critical to deciding whether to accept a position or not. And it’s important to take candidates and employees into consideration. What is it they want and expect?

The hybrid work model has been a hot topic on LinkedIn and Facebook lately. Employees have all sorts of hopes and ideas, notions of how the future might look like but nothing that is fact-based. On the other hand, looking at formal research and the decisions of leading companies, it is clear and safe to say, everyone learned how to be more flexible and work on remote so we believe the hybrid work model in some way or another is the way to go.

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