The Covid-19 pandemic threw the world on its axis, and many people were sent to work from home very quickly. Many people were not prepared at the time but have since come to enjoy working from home and are dreading the idea of going back to the office. People are wondering if their job will force them to go back and what they will do if that happens.
On the other end, employers are faced with making decisions about what their workforce will look like. Should they make their employees come back, or should they be given the option to stay remote? If they stay remote, what should the expectations be? How do I ensure the expectations are being met? Should I hire some fully remote employees? And what does a hybrid approach even mean?
There are many questions facing workers and employers that need to be figured out. The fact is, remote work is here to stay. Here's why and a few ways to prepare.
Remote Work Was Already Trending
The pandemic hitting forced many people to work from home, but remote work was gaining popularity far before it happened. According to a study done by FlexJobs, the number of people working from home at least part-time has gone up by 44% over the last five years. There are many advantages to working from home, including lack of daycare costs, better mental health, and benefits to the environment from less driving. Also, studies show employees are more productive and even happier.
When the shift to remote work first occurred, people were not ready for it. Employers and employees faced a lot of challenges getting used to the new setup. Some examples of the issues they faced were
- Not having an at-home setup to work at
- Watching children while working
- Consistent access to the internet
- Expenses to be able to work from home, like a desk and chair
- Office rent
- Lack of culture and connection
- Inability to have in-person client meetings
As the pandemic raged on, more and more resources and tools became available to make remote work easier.
- Fortified conference systems like Zoom and Cisco
- Affordable shared workspaces
- Remote recruiting services that help attract talent from everywhere
People Want To Stay Home
People have gotten used to working from home and all the benefits that come with it. They have been home for so long now, and many people don't want to physically go back to work. According to Forbes, "Only 3% of employees and entrepreneurs surveyed said they want to work full time at a physical office when workplaces are able to safely reopen after Covid-19. The remaining 97% prefer some degree of flexibility between working remotely and working in an office." Along with that stat, around 60% of employees would prefer to stay fully remote.
Major Companies Lead the Way
Major companies like Twitter and Slack are listening to their employees' desires about their work situation. They are setting a precedent for allowing employees to stay fully remote, even when restrictions are lifted. Salesforce has announced they will implement a hybrid plan with some in office work and some remote work.
So, What Now?
With all this information in mind, there are some questions you need to ask yourself to determine what your next steps will be.
Is Fully Remote Work Right for Me?
Employees have been fully remote for over a year now, so some may not fully realize how much they miss the in-person work. Once things are opened up, try going into the office a couple of days a week to see how you like it. You may find you actually want to do some, or all, in-person work. Another consideration is the cost of having a home office versus going into your company's office space. Figure out what your home office is costing you and see if it is worthwhile to stay at home.
If you are positive you want to be fully remote, you need to make it clear to your employer. Your employer could be swayed if there are a bunch of people who wish to stay at home.
If your employer refuses to let you continue working from home, consider finding a new job that caters to your wishes. There is no shame in doing this. Many people across the country are looking for better benefits and work/life balance. According to a Forbes survey, "The top three benefits employees want are healthcare, professional development, and coaching, coming in at 69%, 63%, and 54% respectively."
Make a Plan
If you are an employer, you need to plan what your workforce will look like going forward. You are going to have to face the fact that remote work is here to stay. You may consider a hybrid approach to your workforce. This could mean some people work from home and some come into the office, or it could mean everyone spends some time at home and some at the office.
A good start to your plan is sending an anonymous survey to your employees to get their feelings on the matter. This may make your decision-making easier. Keep in mind that offering a remote option will likely help you keep your employees, while also attracting new ones.
Finally, consider the disadvantages and advantages of keeping an office space. Is it just a place for people to come in and work and not interact with anyone else? Does it help develop company culture? Is it in a great location that gives you exposure in your market? Can you use the space to host clients or employee gatherings? Even if you switch to remote workers, it may still be worth keeping the office space.
Ultimately, you have to do what is right for you when it comes down to your job. Your company can force you back to the office, but it's up to you to decide whether or not you want to stay there. More and more flexible remote jobs are becoming available, so a little research can go a long way.