Sitting at remote work desk

One of the many lasting legacies left behind by the COVID-19 pandemic, is the remote work employee model, and its impact on the workplace. Over the last 12 months, companies have been forced to transform their business operations and processes in order to be able to successfully manage a largely remote workforce. And while this arrangement might be considered temporary for some, it has become a permanent remedy for many employees across a wide spectrum of industries throughout the U.S. and abroad.

The ability to work from home was long seen as a perk provided by an employer, but it now represents a significant shift towards what has become the accepted norm for many businesses. While the pandemic was certainly the catalyst for the shift, it is commonly believed that remote work will continue to dominate the business environment throughout 2021 and beyond.

So, what is the future of remote work, and how should companies and employees prepare for the shift? Let’s examine the trends and predictions for the years ahead.

The Trend Towards Continued Remote Work

According to an article published by Forbes, the percentage of workers permanently working from home is expected to double in 2021, and 70% of the workforce is expected to be working remotely at least 5 days a month by 2025. This continued uptick is based on the fact that employees and companies have already proven that remote work can be done successfully, and that there are many benefits for both the employer and employee.

Dell Technologies, for example, was successfully managing a remote workforce prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with about 25% of its workforce already working remotely. Then, in August of 2020, Dell announced that half of the company’s employees would continue working remotely even after the pandemic.

Impact of Remote Work on Relocation

During the early months of the pandemic, there was a lot of relocation activity as people moved away from pricy, highly populated metropolitan areas, in search of the suburbs and smaller cities. This trend has continued, partially fueled by remote work opportunities that allow employees to reside wherever they see fit. So, it is interesting to see people relocating out of choice, whether that be for lower cost of living, lower taxes, or even due to lockdowns and other restrictions.

Cities like Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco have also had far more people moving out than moving in. Meanwhile, cities like Austin, Dallas, and Houston are seeing a large influx of new residents.

In October 2020, it was reported by Reuters, that lots of people were moving out of the country’s biggest cities because they preferred to work remotely from less crowded and lower cost areas.

Also in 2020, Big Tech companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook announced that they would be allowing employees to work remotely indefinitely. This has led to an exodus of many of those employees away from Silicon Valley. Several tech companies have offered their employees the option to choose permanent remote work, but with some requiring a pay cut for leaving the expensive cities.

Businesses have also left states like California and New York in favor of more business-friendly environments like those found in states like Texas and Florida.

Preparing for the Future of Remote Work

Although the shift towards remote work has already happened, companies still have an opportunity to prepare for the future of remote work and what that looks like for their organizations. The companies that are willing to strategically approach their remote workforce program and thoughtfully structure it for long-term sustainability, are those that will be the most successful.

A good place to start is by evaluating which business functions are critical to have in the office, and which ones can be easily or better performed remotely. This means taking a deep dive into productivity, and determining which positions are best suited for remote work versus in-office work.

As companies start to have a better handle on what percentage of their workforce will be in the office every day, they will have a better idea about what they need in terms of office space. This will make it necessary for companies to evaluate their real estate strategy, and potentially reduce the size of their commercial space and overhead expenses.

Hybrid Workplace Model

Many companies have adopted more of a hybrid workplace model, which combines both in-office work and remote work within its employee population. This can also be structured so that employees are rotated in and out of the office, which can be configured as shared workspaces, or any number of other solutions. There are various scenarios that are being implemented, which offer flexibility for the employee, while ensuring that the operational demands of the organization are being met.

It is anticipated that hybrid models of remote work will likely to continue in the wake of the pandemic. Meanwhile, companies are still finding their feet in terms of what works and what doesn’t, and the best ways to lean on technology to keep teams connected and engaged with one another.

Impact of Remote Work on Hiring

Remote work will have an obvious impact on hiring, because it allows companies to look beyond the local talent pool. Likewise, it gives employees the ability to expand their search to other markets when looking for a new job.

And depending on the industry, the position, and the type of work, job candidates may need to highlight some of their soft skills in order to stand out from others applying for the same position. By broadening the talent pool for remote work positions, more people will be competing for jobs.

Challenges of Remote Work

Many businesses have cited that the one of the biggest challenges of remote work has been their ability to maintain their company culture when their employees aren’t all working under the same roof. It requires more engagement for people to feel like they are part of the same team, so companies are working harder to promote an atmosphere of inclusion.

In a similar vein, performance management can be difficult for remote employees. Likewise, it may prove to be more challenging for an employee to highlight his or her professional achievements on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. This raises questions about how performance reviews be handled, and whether it is appropriate to do them annually, or whether performance should be reviewed on a more frequent basis.

As for the remote employee, it may be critical to appear more animated during video calls, or participate more in order to show their managers and team members that they are enthusiastic and engaged.

The Survey Says…

According to “PwC’s Remote Work Survey – January 12, 2021,” remote work has been an overwhelming success for both employees and employers. This is based on 133 executives and 1,200 office workers who were surveyed in November and December of 2020.

Some of the other key findings from the survey include:

  • The office is here to stay, but its role is set to change.
  • Employees want to return to the office more slowly than employers expect.
  • There’s no consensus on the optimal balance of work days at home vs. in the office.
  • The least experienced workers need the office the most.
  • Real estate portfolios are in transition.

VERSA is Here to Help

At VERSA, we are the trusted advisors for our corporate clients and their employees. We constantly study the industry trends, issues, challenges, and work closely with our clients to develop the best policies and solutions for today’s changing mobile workforce.

We are always here to answer any questions you might have, so please contact us anytime!

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