Where Do We Go From Here?

It has been over two years since our lives took a turn for the uncertain: The COVID – 19 Pandemic brought about changes in our way of life that paved the way for all of us to realign our perspectives and priorities for the future.

For the last two years, the phrases “Remote Work,” “Social Distancing,” “Home-based Work,” and “Work from home” have never been more popular, with the last of these even being added as an official abbreviation (WFH) to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It is expected that these words will not be leaving our vocabulary anytime soon in the foreseeable future.

Since its break-out, we have seen countless variations, a fluctuating number of cases of infected people, the establishment of the “new normal,” and the changes in work setup for most companies. The ability to work from home is a privilege that few companies were very fond of, pre-pandemic. However, now that it has become part of the norm for the past two years, we may now start asking ourselves, “How long can this go on? What does the future have in store for us? Where do we go from here?”

  1. Home-based and Freelance Work Will Become a Staple for Many Companies

While some companies in specific industries will most likely return to having on-site jobs for all of their employees, it is unlikely that many companies will, at least not in a couple of years after 2023. Ultimately, a way to determine this will be to take a closer look at the tasks and activities associated with a specific profession.

It is projected that many companies will amend existing policies in order to make way and adopt remote work as a viable part of the work structure. Although it is unlikely that fully remote work will still be a thing for some professions in a few years, devoting a number of days to remote work is not a far cry, given the sheer amount of home-based work established over the past two years.

The Demand for Home-based Work Will Increase in the Years to Come

A recent survey by The Conference Board asserts that the continuation of adapting the remote work setup will most likely succeed in the next couple of years, with 77% of respondents expecting to be able to work remotely from 1 to 3 times a week. Furthermore, it is also very likely that professions that can be done fully remote will continue to be so even after the pandemic.

The findings of the same survey include the following data:

  • An increase in the number of Professional and Office Workers working remotely on a full-time basis is expected.
  • Professional and Office workers are also expected to be able to maintain productivity levels better than manual workers.
  • Organizations that report having more than 10% of the workforce work remotely pre-pandemic are more likely to witness a rise in productivity levels during the pandemic.
  • The adoption of a Work-from-home setup for the workforce elicited a reduction in the workforce cost for most organizations.

On another note, a recent survey conducted by FlexJobs determined that out of the 2100 respondents who worked remotely during the pandemic, more than half would actively search for new opportunities should they be prohibited from remote work post-pandemic. As a matter of fact, 65% of the respondents preferred to work remotely on a FULL-TIME basis compared to the 35% who thought otherwise. This is a ground-breaking finding because not only did it prove that the demand for remote work exists, but it also says a lot about what companies have to do to keep their employees happy.

Among its findings concerning the return to on-site setup are the following:

  • Only 2% of the respondents want to return to an on-site setup full-time while 33% think that a hybrid setup is the best way to go.
  • Exposure to COVID-19 remains the top concern for workers.
  • 46% of the respondents report being worried that returning to the office would mean less flexibility while 43 % are more concerned with the loss of work-life balance.
  • Among the top concerns for workers include: Office politics (34%), Lack of safety protocols (32%), and changes in the daily routine (27%)
  • Studies Were Able to Highlight the Convenience of Remote Work for Workers and their Productivity

In the same survey, it was also discovered that while only a third of the population felt that their collaborative abilities had improved virtually, more than half asserted that they were more productive. Furthermore, listed as the best benefit of remote work by the same respondents was not having to commute, with cost savings coming in as a close second. Also, while 70% thought that working remotely has had no impact in terms of their chances at promotions/advancement, 83% were able to actively engage in a form of professional development.

The survey also highlighted the following data:

  • “Not having to commute” ranked as the top benefit of a home-based setup (84%), closely followed by “Cost savings” (75%).
  • Only 6% of the workers felt that their productivity had decreased, while another 6% were not sure.
  • Opinions on video meetings were largely indifferent (33%) but around half of the responses expressed that they either “Like them somewhat” or “Like them a lot”
  • Among the benefits of having virtual meetings, “Not having to travel to the meeting” ranked as the top benefit (75%) followed by the ability to wear comfortable outfits (58%) and having the ability to mute (55%).

While all these numbers seem like good motivators for workers to stay remote, one must wonder how much of a chance is guaranteed that ample opportunities would present themselves in the next couple of years. What do companies stand to gain in adapting remote work into their business operations’ structure?

Workers Will Become More Critical of the Company They Will Be Working For

Given that we have already established that the interest in working at least partially remotely is on the rise, companies can no longer ignore this demand and have to incorporate into their policies the option of working remotely. What was once just a perk for some roles could and should now be a staple for most.

In light of the pandemic, workers are now taking into serious consideration both current and potential employers’ wellness policies. While it is true that even prior to the pandemic, the area and location of business offices must be taken into consideration when looking for a job, the current global crisis multiplied the necessity of this factor exponentially. If an option to work from home exists, not only would it help give the current workforce peace of mind, but the introduction of remote work could also help companies decrease turnover rates for previously on-site roles and would give them the ability to get a hold of potential talents that they would otherwise have missed should this option be inaccessible.

Overall, it is safe to assume that expectations about work situations and setups have changed dramatically over the past two years. While establishing remote work does not go without risks, there is very little we can do to prove that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. We might as well believe this could affect how we see work structures for good. If there’s one thing that is certain, it is that companies, no matter how small or large, are, and will always be, run by people. And people, in the toughest of times, will always find a way to adapt and survive. At this rate, we may be looking at survival as being defined by viewing remote work as the “new normal.”


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