Are we and should we be “forever” working from home? What is the future of work?
A few months ago, we asked CEOs their thoughts on the future of work- their answers were unanimous: while the office is not going away, they all agreed that the world was moving towards a permanent hybrid workplace.
Still, many businesses are reticent to take the leap. Some are even advising against it. Apple—under Steve Jobs—had been considered one of the corporate world’s leading skeptics on the benefits of working from home (WFH). Now, months into the pandemic, less than 15% of the Apple workforce is back in the office, and CEO Tim Cook says the company will not “return to the way we were because we’ve found that there are some things that actually work really well virtually.”
Like Apple, many enterprises have long been reticent to implement widespread WFH policies. For lots of managers, the perceived link between seeing that people are working, and believing in their productivity, has remained strong. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, for example, recently called remote work “a pure negative.”
But is that an accurate perception? Probably not—at least, not according to the nearly 900 sudden telecommuters who answered our company’s WFH productivity survey several months after COVID-19 started closing offices, shops, educational institutions, and medical offices.
The key resides in the right balance of technology
Nearly three-quarters of our survey respondents had never, or rarely, worked from home before the pandemic. Yet, an overwhelming 80%—including IT professionals, game developers, video producers, architects, TV broadcasting professionals, retailers, Secondary education and college educators, and healthcare professionals—reported being more, or equally, productive when working from home.
According to 75% of the WFH survey respondents, collaboration, and communication tools like Zoom and remote-access software such as Splashtop, greatly contributed to increasing productivity.
As a result, a third of our survey respondents said they expected that their companies might be more open to working from home, even after the pandemic’s restrictions abate. 28% of participants actually suggested that working from home could become the new normal for their companies, permanently. Supporting this prediction are recent announcements from enterprises—like Microsoft, HubSpot, Quora, Square, Slack, and Okta—that plan to extend their work-from-home options “forever”.
What this means for you – WFH beyond the pandemic?
Among the many reported productivity boost, many other reasons are paving the way to more remote working:
- Better Quality of Life for Employees – Work-from-home alternatives may help companies recruit and retain their employees for long-term success. Companies can widen the range of potential candidates for open positions if they’re not strictly bound by geographic constraints. And conversely, potential employees with the option of working from home, away from high-cost coastal cities, see a quality-of-life attraction. For those who do prefer to live in and around urban centers, long daily commutes can be reduced or eliminated.
- Lower Capital Investment – Companies can reevaluate their real estate expenditures. More employees working from home, full or part-time, could allow companies to reduce the square footage of office space they must rent or own to support all their workers.
- Carbon Footprint – A carbon footprint is expressed by the number of tones of CO2 emitted by a person over the year. According to Action Protect Earth, Americans have some of the largest carbon footprints per person, with the average per American being 16.5 tonnes. In contrast, in the EU, this average is 7 tonnes. Now imagine all businesses going fully or partially remote. This will result in fewer emissions, less printed paper usage, and less plastic usage for each employee working from home. As a result, by not driving to and from work every day, remote workers are dramatically shifting the scales of consumption, waste, and pollution.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its widespread shelter-in-place requirements have forced sudden, mass adoption of work-from-home capabilities. Some companies that previously resisted the idea of having employees work from home, due to worries about productivity drops or other concerns, are finding that the flexibility of remote work can offer tangible benefits not just for increasing profits but also making a positive impact on our environment. This confirms the assumption we made a few months ago: remote work is here to stay – Forever. So if you have not already, it’s probably time to start thinking about a flexible approach to your workplace.