Remote work has skyrocketed during the pandemic. However, after the pandemic ends, most employees at major companies such as Twitter, Square, and Shopify will work remotely indefinitely. They aren’t alone. As many as one-third of U.S. companies may keep some or all of their employees working from home when the crisis ends.
What might this mean for businesses and workers? To begin to answer this question starts with examining the impact of remote work on businesses today.
Benefits and Challenges of Remote Work
Pre-pandemic research found that remote work is correlated with 40% higher productivity, 40% fewer errors, and 21% higher profitability. And despite the challenges of the pandemic, some firms have recently attributed productivity increases to remote work, with managers also noting that it has provided them access to a broader pool of talent from which to hire. Further, many employees have found remote work satisfying, given the increased autonomy and scheduling flexibility it affords.
However, not all firms are thrilled with remote work. For example, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, has decried remote work as “a pure negative.” Along with other CEOs and workers, he finds remote work hinders collaboration and innovation. Further, as per recent Gallup research, many workers complain of feeling isolated, putting them at increased risk of burnout.
Widespread adoption of remote work also has significant external downstream effects. Retail consumption habits have shifted dramatically from brick-and-mortar to online, putting many companies out of business, and leaving workers facing permanent job loss. Some believe the gradual exodus of workers from coastal areas to more affordable states may reduce service jobs in these regions. And in some industries, some firms have begun to rely more on freelancers rather than full-time employees.
Implementing Remote Work Effectively
For firms reliant on a remote or hybrid full-time workforce, managers must take great care to address common challenges their employees face, such as:
- Offering flexible scheduling;
- Scheduling regular check-ins with staff
- Planning virtual social and non-work-related activities
- Providing productivity and collaboration tools to keep employees on task
- Defraying or covering the costs of home offices
- Encouraging and modeling self-care
Many firms have taken these steps to address the needs of their suddenly-remote workforce. However, other firms are already incorporating these steps into their long-term plans to support and recruit remote employees. And while it remains to be seen how widespread and enduring a shift to remote work proves to be post-pandemic, it’s clear that, for many businesses, remote work is here to stay.