Remote work used to be a term that employers and organizations didn’t like to hear. Working from home was a privilege enjoyed by the royal few. To help you understand, consider for a moment that just a few years back in 2012, only 24% of employees spent up to 80% of their time working remotely. This was a meager figure.
However, as we get the pandemic under control, the much-awaited question has finally popped up. Employers and employees alike are now asking, “What is the future of work, jobs, and careers after COVID-19?” In order to respond correctly to this question, it is important to answer this first:
At the height of the pandemic, was remote work effective?
Was Working-From-Home Effective During the Peak of the Pandemic?
When the coronavirus appeared unexpectedly, many employers were ill-prepared. Several countries saw a dip in business and economic growth. What’s more, many companies realized how essential it was to move their operations and workforce remotely.
While lots of organizations didn’t like the idea, they were forced to allow their employees to work from home to keep them safe. However, many business owners found themselves worrying about the productivity of their workers. We now know they really had little to worry about.
Months into allowing remote work, the results revealed that previous practices of placing employees under constant supervision were counterproductive. How could this be so? Well, at the peak of the lockdown in 2020, Airtasker carried out a survey, and the results were mind-blowing. For one, employees who were allowed to work from home became more productive than their counterparts who commuted to the office. It gets more interesting when you look at other key points revealed by the survey:
• Although remote workers took longer breaks, they still put in an additional 10 minutes of work each day.
• When taken into accumulation, work-from-home employees worked 1.4 days longer than their commuting counterparts. This means that in a year, they would have worked 17 days longer than their colleagues working from an office.
• While it is inevitable for employees – whether remote or in an office – to waste time during work hours, office workers were unproductive for up to 37 minutes. On the contrary, remote working staff wasted about 27 minutes. That’s an additional 10 minutes that will eventually accumulate into hours saved.
It is evident that working from anywhere isn’t just beneficial to the employees but to their employers as well. Now that this is obvious, it’s time to consider what to expect moving forward as we enter a post-COVID era.
What Is the Potential of Remote Work Post-Coronavirus?
As more organizations and businesses transitioned to having a remote workforce, another truth became apparent: some jobs are more suited for remote work than others. To explore this new finding, a management consulting company, McKinsey & Company, conducted an analysis in nine countries. The study involved 2,000 tasks and 800 jobs and focused on the potential of remote work for specific roles and industries.
The findings of this research confirmed the fact that remote work was better suited for certain jobs and tasks more than others. For example, in the insurance and finance sector, three-quarters of activities could be done remotely without any drop in productivity. Even so, they weren’t alone. Business services, management, and information technology were other sectors that have the potential to continue activities remotely without sacrificing productivity. However, it is important to keep in mind that these fields have a large college-educated workforce.
These figures make it clear that the quality of your workforce plays a significant role in how productive your organization will be in a remote setting. The survey also showed that countries with more advanced economies have more potential when it comes to working from anywhere. In such countries, the specific sectors doing well with remote work reflect their leading industries, occupation, and tasks.
For example, in the United Kingdom, the industry with the largest share of the economy is the financial and business sector. Theoretically, this implies that their employees can operate remotely one-third of the time without experiencing a drop in productivity. In this light, other countries with a high potential to manage a remote workforce successfully include Japan, Spain, the United States, Germany, and France.
What Should You Expect In the Future of Remote Work?
To answer this question, it is worth referring to individuals like Stephane Kasriel, VP of Payments at Facebook. In an interview, he pointed out the tools that will be part of the future of work. These applications won’t just help in time tracking and improving productivity—they’ll also save you operational costs in the long run (if you are a business owner).
Kasriel believes that Virtual Reality conferencing will be among the preferred forms of communication in the future of remote work. He also forecasts that artificial intelligence will play a significant role in the efficient management of telecommuting teams. Mobile apps will become commonplace, and he believes that these will greatly reduce the concerns that many employers currently have about remote workers.
While transitioning to a permanent work-from-home model seems challenging when the pandemic is over, it’s easily achievable if you have the right tools. In addition, applying the right management strategies and communication techniques will make the process seamless.
At this point, we are ready to address the question, “What should we expect for remote work after COVID-19?”
Working From Home After COVID: What Will Happen?
To predict the future of remote work as accurately as possible, we need to consider the research carried out by Global Workplace Analytics. This leading consulting and research firm collaborated with several international organizations, including the co-founder of Iometrics, Dr. Anita Kamouri, to bring an answer to this question.
This research, launched at the peak of the pandemic, analyzed the current technology, labor, workplace, and workforce trends. The results offered more clarity to the uncertainty of what the future holds for remote work.
For example, at the time of the study, about 3.6% of workers were telecommuting at least half of the time. However, the results get more interesting. Here’s why: the research shows that more than half of the job positions in the United States can be done remotely, either entirely or in part. This means that there are more unexplored grounds.
Considering past trends, this data shows that at least 20 to 30% of US employees will work from home more than once per week before the end of 2021. A survey carried out by Upwork agrees with this prediction. It showed that managers believe that at least 26.7% of workers will remain fully remote from this year forward.
Let us explore the reasons why these figures are possible after COVID:
Employees Demand It
Long before the pandemic, workers loved the idea of telecommuting. In fact, flexibility was something the workforce demanded for. Well, very few got the opportunity to explore this new world. However, with coronavirus forcing employers to allow their workforce to operate from home, a snowball effect was created. A large percentage of workers had a taste of what it meant to work outside the office.
Research shows that 94% of employees who worked remotely want to continue. As the pandemic dies down, they desire to work from home, even if it’s just part of the time.
Business Owners and Executives Are Becoming More Accepting
When it comes to running an efficient workforce, trust is necessary. In the past, managers and business owners alike were reluctant to allow remote work because they believed it limited their supervision privileges. However, they are beginning to accept that this is not true. Besides, it is now obvious that micromanaging your workers negatively affects productivity in the long run.
Remote work tools such as time trackers, collaboration software, and video conferencing apps now make it possible to supervise your employees without becoming overbearing. Executives and managers are now more willing to consider allowing their staff to work from home, knowing they can monitor their productivity remotely.
In addition, workers who enjoy work flexibility are happier and more likely to put their best into the job than their commuting counterparts. It’s a win-win for everyone – the workers are happy, and the business gets a more productive workforce.
A Disaster Management Plan Is Necessary
Well, we will not easily forget how COVID-19 came and disrupted both the economy and the way we work. Managers and executives who refused to embrace remote work before the pandemic suffered the most losses when the virus hit. To stay above water, they were forced to accept work-from-home.
Companies that allowed some of their employees to telecommute even before the pandemic were able to quickly transition their entire workforce to work remotely. This points to the need for a system that embraces flexibility and allows staff to work outside the office at least twice each week.
Business owners are now beginning to understand this and making remote work policies to bridge the existing gaps. This will allow them to respond swiftly to future disasters that may occur without warning.
Remote Work Is Cost-Efficient
Before the COVID-19 era, organizations offered remote work as an incentive to acquire and retain the best talents. However, studies show that there is much more to gain by embracing a flexible work-from-home policy. Employers get to save money by not paying for real estate and electricity bills, and employees also save money on transport and lunch expenses.
Business owners who set up home fittings and gadgets to allow their staff to work remotely might seem like they are spending more. However, in the long run, these companies save up to $11,000 per employee per year.
Change Is Here to Stay and There’s No Use Fighting It
Some business owners may be adamant and want to enforce office commuting once the health crisis is entirely out of the way. However, this is not a good idea. Evolution and advancement are part of life, and adapting is the only way to stay ahead of the curve.
Many large firms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google have realized this and are giving their employees the option to work from home. In fact, the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, told his workforce that they could work remotely “Forever!” if they want to.
The future of work is changing, and it will continue to do so after COVID-19.