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Is the remote work era over?

Is the remote work era over?

May 1, 2023

5 mins read

Future of Work

With the three-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, and many companies instituting return-to-work policies, the question begs to be asked: Is the remote work era is over?

Some believe it is.

“Just a few years after COVID upended office life as we know it, work-from-home is becoming increasingly rare,” stated Gwynn Guilford in a recent WSJ article based on Department of Labor research. 

And Forbes reported that “Although some companies favor remote working, others are reducing the number of remote offerings,” citing recent LinkedIn data that remote work positions fell to 14% in September from a high of 20% in February. 

But interestingly, the demand for remote work positions is not dwindling. Research stays 68% of Americans would prefer to work remotely. And, in big cities in particular, the number of remote work job roles are hitting record high levels

So, on one hand, we’re seeing more companies recalling employees, but on the other, we’re reading that remote work opportunities are bustling, which begs the question, what’s really going on? 

Perhaps we should be saying that the remote work era is changing, thanks to these “aha” moments that have occurred over the last few years.

READ MORE: Remote work myths, debunked!

1. Physical office space doesn’t impact employee performance

It became abundantly clear during the pandemic that employees do not necessarily need a physical office space to perform at their highest level. And that starts with the commute to get to the physical office.

Just look at this data: “On average, those who work from home devote 40% of their commute time savings to primary and secondary job tasks, 34% to leisure, and 11% to caregiving.” Basically, employees were taking the time that they were using to commute to the office to actually get work done. 

And what about when they actually get to the office? “One survey of close to a million US workers at Fortune 500 companies showed productivity remained stable or increased after employees began working remotely.” It’s not only possible, but profitable.

With all that being said, we cannot ignore that there are benefits of in-person engagement for a distributed team. But this this does not mean that companies need to commit to a real estate lease that can be quite costly. There are viable options, like on-demand coworking spaces, that can provide opportunities for in-person engagement without the commitment and cost of an expensive physical office space. 

2. Productivity matters more than hours worked

When individuals were forced to transition to working from home versus in a physical office, there was a shift in what it meant to be productive. For some companies, emphasizing productivity versus how many hours were spent working provided great insight into what was most important to the company’s bottom line.

3. Flexibility is highly valuable to employees

While working from home during the pandemic certainly had its challenges, especially for families with small children, the value of flexibility for employees and the positive impact it had on their performance was better understood. Many employees reported (over 20%) reported being happier with remote work

Now that companies have a few years of intentional remote work under their belts, they are able to better understand the needs of their remote employees, and provide them with the support to help they remain successful. For some, that has meant returning to the office for a couple of days a week. For others, that has meant staying fully remote, with the opportunity to work in an on-demand coworking space, or attend an all-hands workweek or collaborative in-person work session with colleagues on a monthly or bi-yearly basis. 

With over 30% of workers still working remotely, and a number of companies continuing to eliminate their physical office spaces, it’s clear that the remote work era isn’t over. But for it to continue to be successful, companies must create specific teams, policies, and benefits that truly encompass the unique needs of their distributed team in order for them to continue to remain successful.