By Hanna Marcus
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, the working world experienced a major shift.
Entire corporate offices were shut down, employees were told not to come in, and the first big push toward an all-remote workforce went into full effect. The world went careening, head-first, toward remote work – and to the surprise of many, it caught on.
Now, as the post-pandemic world reveals itself, there is no pandemic-related need to continue the remote work trend. And yet, many companies are not budging.
This leads many to question whether or not remote work should remain the standard, no matter the industry or size of the company.
This blog is not necessarily a vote in either camp, but more of a food for thought-style think-piece for managers, company owners, and employees to consider.
Does continuing a remote work standard make sense in a post-pandemic world? Should companies continue pursuing the flexibility that comes with a remote workforce, even if it means sacrificing company morale and team bonding that goes hand-in-hand with working in an office?
Before you can answer these questions for yourself, it is important to take a look at the statistics as well as the pros and cons of each style. Let's dive in...
The Remote Work Statistics: Before & After the Pandemic
To better understand the significance of the shift toward remote work, it is important to realize that the work-from-home movement sparked from a place where very few workers were participating in remote work at all. Consider a few numbers to get a better idea of this concept.
According to NCCI, only about 6% of the employed workforce primarily worked from home pre-pandemic. That same article says that about three-quarters of workers had never worked from home. That means a substantial percentage of the workforce had never even had the opportunity for flexible work from home or other remote locations.
When the pandemic hit, though, everything changed. With offices closed and work still needing to be done, remote work had to be considered.
An article from Pew Research Center states that (at the time of publication in February 2022) about six in ten U.S. workers whose jobs could mainly be done from home were still working from their homes all or most of the time.
That same NCCI report from before says that, now, most workers and employers expect to permanently implement a more flexible remote work policy as a result. According to Pumble, about 40.7 million Americans are expected to be fully remote in the next five years.
In other words, people experienced the remote work world – and they liked it.
The Pros and Cons of a Remote Work Force Post-Pandemic
But even though the numbers are trending toward a steady increase in remote work – at least as is predicted in the U.S – the question remains: is remote work a good idea for the workforce?
It all depends on how you look at it, what your company’s goals might be, and what works best for your employees. As such, it is crucial to take a good, hard look at the pros and cons.
The Pros of Remote Work
There tends to be a better work-life balance. Remote work offers a flexible mindset for many employees, making it easier for them to get things done in a way that is more balanced for them. And as a result, people are able to get things done at times that make more sense to them. Barring meetings or deadlines, people are able to get things done at their pace (so long as they are done on time and productively), all without worrying about micromanaging or scrutiny.
Companies can hire talented people from anywhere. As a company, remote work does not limit you geographically. If you want to hire an incredibly talented person who lives three states away, you can. Remote work offers companies the flexibility they need to hire the best talent, even if they are not local.
Corporations can scale back on operating and overhead costs. It is no surprise that if your workforce is remote, you will cut back on operating and overhead costs. It makes sense, right? There is no building to pay for, no rent or lease, and no utilities to cover costs. Sure, other expenses will arise as a result, but that overarching cost will likely diminish.
It is helpful for the environment. This is true in more ways than one. For starters, your employees do not have to drive into your location; they can work right from home or their local coffee shop without needing to fire up their vehicles. Secondly, you will produce less waste as a corporation. Global Workplace stated in its Work-At-Home After Covid-19 forecast report that “the annual environmental impact of remote half-time work (based on the estimate that 56% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is at least partially compatible with remote work) would be the equivalent of taking the entire New York state workforce off the road, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.”
The Cons of Remote Work
Work-life separation becomes more challenging. Notice that we are not discussing work-life balance, but rather the physical boundaries and separation between work and life. When working from home, it is easier for people to get lost in either part of their lives. Maybe they work later because their dining room is their office. Maybe they get sidetracked with laundry because their living room is their office. There is no separation as there is with physically going into an office space and then coming home – and that can make things difficult and produce serious burnout. The National Bureau of Economic Research reported that “the average workday has increased by 48 minutes, while the number of meetings has increased 13%.” A lot of that is credited to working from your home and being unable to “leave work.”
Remote work alienates those who succeed in a workplace environment. Some people work better in busy office environments. Some people work better from home. One way of operation is not necessarily better than the other, but opting for a remote workforce does mean alienating talented people who might not thrive in a remote work setting. If you do implement a WFH company, you are taking a calculated risk of missing out on talented workers who might be more drawn to an in-person office environment.
Day-to-day, in-person interactions are not possible. Yes, your employees can be in constant contact. They can chat on Slack or participate in Zoom calls. But you will not get the day-to-day interactions at the water cooler. You will not get the company morale that is built at the office. You can absolutely come up with creative ways to bond your company together, but it is a very different strategy than simply allowing your employees to be in close proximity to each other on a weekly or daily basis.
As far as our opinion on the matter, we answer it with a very tepid, “well, it depends.” Personally, we believe remote work can offer major advantages and have its drawbacks – many of which we included in the above section.
But above all, we think remote work does work for some organizations and does not for others. And that has to do with a few factors:
The size of the company
The emphasis of the company
The company’s mission
What the company is selling (services vs. products vs. solutions)
What the company prioritizes
How many employees work for the company
How crucial employee bonding and day-to-day interactions are
That list could, of course, go on and on. But ultimately, what it comes down to is this – the decision to include remote work in your company’s policy is entirely up to what works best for your company’s unique needs and goals.
Looking for Insight on Remote Work? We Can Help
What are your thoughts on remote work? Does it continue to have a verified place in the post-pandemic world? How can you, as a company’s manager, provide a more structured work-from-home environment so your employees (and your company) can succeed?
If you are a manager or company owner seeking insight into the continued benefits of remote work or the tried-and-true advantages of in-office work, we can help. Reach out to our team today for insight and guidance on what might work best for your unique team needs! Call us at 404-432-0181 or send us an email at email@example.com to get in touch!