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The Death of the Office?

Operations & Management

Isadora Teich wrote this article

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The pandemic forced many companies to allow employees to work from home, possibly even for the first time.

Over the last ten years or so, a lot of the popular rhetoric around working from home has been negative. We’ve had more than a few eyebrows raised at us as a remote-first company since our inception.

In general, many companies seemed to believe that it would be impossible for employees to do their work from home. This could have been because of the nature of their work, or simply because many people assume that people who work from home don’t actually do much work.

However, despite the doubt, at the height of the pandemic, roughly 70% of the entire full-time US workforce was working from home.

This has had profound effects on how business is done. While workers overwhelmingly want to stay at least partially remote, not all companies are on board.

This begs the question, what will the future of work look like in the US?

Remote Work By The Numbers

Data shows that not only did many US workers adjust to remote careers, but they want to keep them.

Owl Labs found that 92% of the professionals they surveyed expected to work from home at least one day a week even after the pandemic concludes. 80% want at least 3 days of remote work per week.

As things progress, it may be difficult for companies who refuse to offer remote work to attract the talent that they want. 60% of those surveyed said that employers who offer remote work opportunities are more attractive.

This is so important to people that 23% of the professionals surveyed would take lower-paying jobs that offer remote work over higher-paying ones that don’t.

Is Remote Work Good Or Bad For Everyone?

Honestly, you can find research to fit whatever argument you have on this topic. A Martec Group Survey reports that employee mental health and job satisfaction have plummeted since the start of the pandemic.

While Forbes says this is because of remote work, that could be a little bit short-sighted. After all, it is probably difficult for many people to keep up their motivation and positivity during a global crisis, whether they are working from home or not.

However, it is undeniable that remote work does create some new problems. How do you build a company culture virtually? Work can be a positive source of community for people. Many people make lifelong friends and develop important skills in these traditional work settings. They can offer motivation and accountability.

Can we do the same things virtually in the face of mass Zoom burnout? Do we even have the tools necessary for seamless widescale remote collaboration? While these are real challenges that need to be taken seriously, remote work does have its documented benefits.

In fact, a recent study claims it will boost productivity in the US economy by 5% post-pandemic.  On top of allowing workers flexibility and a better work-life balance, it also can save companies a ton of money. Office space is expensive to rent and maintain.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, the typical employer can save over $10,000 a year per employee who works remotely half of the time.

Workers Want To Go Remote, But Do Companies?

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, told NPR:

“The biggest holdback against remote work for the past 20 years has been middle managers who didn’t trust their employees to do it. And the biggest difference between managers who support it and those who don’t is those who have done it.”

The answer is yes and no. Some companies have already radically changed their company structures. Others are in the midst of battles with employees who don’t want to come back to the office. You might expect the big tech and social media companies who pride themselves on being ahead of the curve to be amongst the first to go remote. However, not all of them are taking the plunge.

While Apple employees are still fighting with the company to go remote, financial giants like Morgan Stanley and Barclays have big plans for more and more virtual work. Nationwide Insurance is even closing 5 regional offices entirely. All of those employees will now work from home full time.

Remote Work In Tech

The big buzzy tech companies that we always see in the news are in an interesting spot. The argument could be made that they have a lot of leverage. So, they could potentially get away with offering their office workers less than what they want. However, if they want to attract the best talent, failing to offer remote options may make them less competitive.

Amazon is taking a middle-ground approach. Workers are returning to the office but can work from home 2 days a week. Amazon initially wanted corporate employees to return to the office more than that, but faced intense backlash from their employees. Not even Amazon can escape the remote work world.

Twitter announced that employees can work from home forever, but is also building another office. Facebook is letting all of its employees work from home forever. So is Microsoft. Google is allowing a percentage of employees to work remotely forever as well.

Apple has taken a similar approach to Amazon, and workers are not happy about it. While Apple was one of the first companies to allow remote work during the pandemic, they are now asking that employees return to their offices 3 days a week. In the past 2 months, Apple employees have written two petition letters asking for more flexibility. The latest one reads:

“We continue to be concerned that this one-size-fits-all solution is causing many of our colleagues to question their future at Apple. With COVID-19 numbers rising again around the world, vaccines proving less effective against the Delta variant, and the long-term effects of infection not well understood, it is too early to force those with concerns to come back to the office.”

Even Apple Is Feeling The Pressure

Apple is prestigious. It’s buzzy. It is a bonafide tech giant. It is a cool company.

Many people in their corporate offices make more than most people on the planet.  Even so, mass numbers of its corporate employees are threatening to leave because they were asked to go back to the office. Depending on your own work history, this may seem somewhat ridiculous to you.

Regardless of anyone’s opinion, it is fascinating.

Amazon has already had to meet its employees’ remote work demands to avoid mass resignations. If even Apple has to bend, it is likely that most companies will have to.

Many companies are already embracing remote work without a fight. For others, it may be the hill that they literally die on.

Final Thoughts

No one can say for sure what exactly will happen in the future. However, it is indisputable that now that many workers have gotten a taste of working from home, they prioritize that flexibility above many things.

For many workers, it is even more important than a higher salary. Companies across industries, after seeing how much money it saves them, are embracing it too.

Usually, the truth of the future lays between speculated extremes. While some workers will definitely return to the office, it is likely to be only part-time. And some workers may actually never set foot in an office again. There has truly been a massive shift in how we work in the US.

About ChopDawg.com: Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.

 

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