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Businesses Unlikely to Return to Status Quo

Adnan Zai

As citizens weary from the restrictions of the pandemic clamor for a return to normal, they are not all clamoring for a return to normal in-person work. Some employees have gotten used to the comforts of working from home and are in no hurry to return to the office on a full-time basis. This begs the question for companies who are managing a workforce over zoom. The work still needs to be done, innovation needs to happen, and employees need to communicate with each other, so is all this attainable from a remote or hybrid work environment? On the heels of workers not wanting to return to the office full time, many companies are accepting the hybrid idea as reality and are working to create a dynamic in-person and remote work environment.

Employee viewpoint

There are many reasons people have grown used to working at home and want to continue. For example, there is more free time in the day without a lengthy commute, and people have more energy to spend time with family. Family responsibilities like childcare and elder care are also easier to deal with if people are not in the office for 8 hours a day. There is also just a sense of ease without jumping into the rat race every morning.

Along with a lifestyle change, there is a financial component to remote work. Business Insider reported, “More than a third of those surveyed said they saved at least $5,000 a year by working from home.” Without commuting costs, lunches out, and extensive clothing budgets, people can save money in addition to improving their mental health.

Because of these reasons and many others, employee surveys have shown that working from home is here to stay. Apple has recently hit the news because nearly 90 percent of workers who responded to a survey said they “strongly agree” with the statement “location-flexible working options are a very important issue to me” and 59% of workers felt like colleagues might have to leave if not allowed flexible work. 

A survey from FlexJobs garnered similar results. They found that not only do employees want remote work to stay post-pandemic, 58% say they would absolutely look for a new job if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely in their current position. Plus, 65% want to work remotely full-time post-pandemic, and another 33% prefer a hybrid work arrangement. This means that most of the workforce wants to spend more time working from home.

These statistics show that even as the country heals from the pandemic, the workplace environment will not instantly return to pre-pandemic status. Business Insider reported, “just 2% of respondents said they wanted to work in the office full time.”

What businesses are thinking

So, if workers came out of the pandemic wanting to continue working from home, what do employers think? CNBC reports, “High-profile companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google say they will be using a hybrid work model, where workers spend time working both from the office and from home, going forward.”

Susan Lund, a partner at McKinsey & Company and leader of the McKinsey Global Institute, spoke on studies conducted on worker productivity at home, keeping in mind that 60% of the workforce cannot possibly work at home because they work with specialized machinery or in hospitals, etc. “So what we find is that in the short term, people are definitely as productive, that it looks like they’re spending more time at work, in part because they don’t have the commute. They don’t necessarily have to go out to get lunch. They don’t even have the office chit-chat. So on one level, it looks like the number of hours that people are working is actually up. But long term, there are questions about innovation and new products and new ideas are going to be as forthcoming because of the remote work setup.”

These are the same questions that many employers are grappling with. Many employers are cognizant that people are interested in a hybrid model of work, and are taking strides to make it happen, while trying to determine the best way to keep everyone engaged. Businesses are aware, for instance, that the people in the room make all the decisions rather than those on Zoom, and are working to level that playing field. They are also thinking about employees’ mental health after the long struggle of the pandemic.

Flexibility and care for employees

Businesses are definitely changing, and many of the conversations are focused on helping employees. Forbes magazine reports , “Companies like PwC, Microsoft and IBM are hedging their bets on long-term hybrid work models to satisfy employee demands for flexibility, but prioritizing mental health and wellness will also be critical to appease new workforce priorities in the office of the future.”

Mental health is definitely a big part of this push. Chris Biggs, a partner at the consultancy firm Theta Global Advisors, told Insider that employers need to be “tuned into people’s mental health” as staff return to the office.

Creativity wins the day for leaning into employee’s needs and giving them the tools to thrive wherever they might be working. Cynthia Kantor, Chief Product Officer of Corporate Solutions at JLL, a Fortune 500 company with revenues of $16.6 billion in over 80 countries, has employed Experience/Anywhere, a program which connects employees whether at work or home. “This includes ‘The Hub,’” she said, “a digital portal that integrates directly with employees’ calendars to block time for micro-habits to combat work-stressors felt throughout the day, providing customized on-demand well-being services like yoga and meditation that match each individual’s interests and needs.” With employers thinking outside of the box, businesses will be able to manage the changing work environment.

Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs. “The landscape of remote work has permanently changed as a result of Covid-19, and its impact will be felt in the job market and the workplace well into the foreseeable future.”

For 15 months, people have been rushing to “get back to normal,” but when all is said and done, the landscape of the workplace has likely been changed forever. Employers are making strides to connect remote and on-location employees, while still getting the high-quality work they want and need, and many big companies will make the leap to develop innovative solutions to the hybrid model of employment.

Adnan Zai

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