As businesses slowly but surely get the green light to open back up, the question looms: how will the current work-from-home model impact workplace protocols moving forward? And how radically will the traditional office environment shift as corporate America reopens for business? A new survey suggests the change will likely be quite radical.
The answer seemed came quickly for some major tech companies that addressed the issue early. First out of the gate was Twitter, which announced that while it wouldn’t be reopening its offices until September 2020, it was giving its employees the choice on whether to go back in when it does, or simply stay home working remotely. Facebook soon followed suit, offering its employees the opportunity to work from home on a permanent basis.
It was pretty shocking that tech giants like Twitter and Facebook would let remote workers keep their work-from-home status even when office workplace restrictions were lifted. Not to be outdone, Google announced not only could their workers remain working remotely, the company would actually pay them $1,000 to do so!
At the beginning of 2020, such arrangements would have seemed absurd. But it only took a few weeks, thanks to one ferocious pandemic, to readjust management’s outlook on working remotely.
There are several reasons why the turnabout in attitude was an easier pill to swallow than originally thought.
Working-from-home actually works. It didn’t take long for businesses to discover that home networks, in most cases, could be made robust enough and secure enough to sustain the workflow of typical business. As 5G becomes more widespread, remote work will be even further enhanced. In fact, in a recent poll conducted by Blue Fountain Media, 65% of respondents said that the growth of technology has played a role in the success of remote work.
Our new flexible schedules have shown both employers and employees that fluidity can work, and looser schedules actually promote engagement and creativity. In the survey, almost 40% reported being much more productive at home than at the office. And in an unusual finding, 44% of CEOs and board members reported that their stress levels have actually decreased since working remotely, with 32% of those citing that it was somewhat liberating.
The online poll asked 1,082 U.S.-based remote workers between 18 and 65 about their work-from-home experiences and how they felt about eventually returning to the office when restrictions were lifted.
We surveyed a wide array of employees, everyone from staff and clerical workers through managers, including senior managers, C-suite occupants, and company CEOs.
Other key findings:
For the most part, employees have embraced remote working. While businesses worried workers would miss the social component and daily routine of coming to a workplace, the survey found that only about 20% said they missed personal interaction with colleagues. Video conference meeting-tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams and Groups are largely helping with that.
Many ways we’ve worked in the past will no longer be viable, including open office layouts and shared workstations, shared tables, and cubes. So maintaining a large remote work force is going to be one of the only ways most businesses will be able to maintain current employment levels. Work from Home (WFH) is now going to be a necessity – especially for businesses that formerly carried expensive leases, in this disrupted economy.
In the survey, 42% said working from home will eventually replace physical offices. Almost 40% of respondents held genuine reservations about returning to their offices, with more than 20% saying they will discuss working from home as full-time option going forward.
While in-person office work will continue to have its place in the post COVID world, the open office or cube-farm real estate model will have to undergo significant and costly changes in order to make working conditions safe. This will result in a mixture of remote and in-person work, particularly as businesses reassess the wisdom of carrying expensive leases during an economic downturn.
Brian Byer is Vice President and General Manager of Blue Fountain Media, a Pactera Company, a full-service digital marketing agency.