When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to imagine it in a positive light. Millions have lost their lives worldwide as a result of its effects. Many have lost jobs and livelihoods because of shutdowns and quarantines. And social life has yet to return to normal, especially as new COVID variants run rampant. But the pandemic has brought about some changes that are indeed quite favorable. In fact, it has served as a catalyst for many new innovations and technological advances, including vaccination science. In being truly objective in our perspective, we have to admit the pandemic has brought about some positives as well. And one of the most notable ones has been the increased work-from-home options that many now enjoy.
As the pandemic surged, remote work opportunities were essential. Millions logged into their office servers and hunkered down at home to take care of their daily tasks. Learning to juggle children, pets, and interruptions inherent to the home environment was tough. But slowly, each of us managed to do just that and made the most of our remote work experience. In the process, we began to notice that these working-from-home options weren’t so bad. We no longer had that dreadful commute. Our time became more flexible, enabling us to better manage our households. We even became more adept in using technology to connect and collaborate with our colleagues and clients. Certainly, we want things to return to normal. But do we really want to return to the office? For the vast majority, the answer is a resounding NO!
The Numbers Don’t Lie
In a recent survey conducted by Bold Business in July of 2021, employees and businesses both show how things have changed. Out of 312 individuals polled, a whopping 93% wanted work-from-home options to be part of their employment. In fact, nearly 70% said their preferred full-time remote work opportunities with no office time at all. The benefits of remote work far outweighed the potential negatives because we have adapted to a new normal. We have learned to be more productive in a work-from-home setting. (Want tips on how to be productive while working from home? Check out this Project Bold Life story!) We also appreciate the increased time we have to spend with family and friends without a commute. And for many, expenses have been reduced as remote work opportunities have increased. Less gasoline in our cars, fewer car repairs, and perhaps, a much less expensive wardrobe.
While most workers prefer work-from-home options, the response from employers is more varied. The same survey revealed that more than half of larger companies wanted workers to return to the office setting. This has led to many companies offering hybrid alternatives with partial remote work opportunities. But smaller companies appear to be more receptive. Only one in five smaller businesses wished to resume in-office work. They were much more flexible in considering a paradigm shift that included more work-from-home options. Given that small business tend to employ a larger portion of the population, this is noteworthy. In total, these statistics strongly suggest we’re in the midst of a major employment change.
Technology (and a Pandemic) Driving Change
Centuries ago, you might say the “office” was out in the field. Farmers would cultivate crops and process livestock that would be sold at market. As machines were introduced, the office shifted to the factor. The Industrial Age moved people into the city, and many worked on assembly lines. This again changed in the latter part of the twentieth century with the introduction of the computer. Suddenly, we found ourselves stuffed into little cubicles, each with their own PC and push-pin friendly, carpeted walls. But advancing telecommunications and a slew of apps have now made this environment obsolete as well. The pandemic simply made us painfully aware that office work was not necessarily essential. Remote work opportunities and work-from-home options thus reflect a continued evolution of the workspace.
While the pandemic forced us into remote work opportunities, technology has played a major role as well. Enhanced videoconferencing capabilities have made work-from-home options much easier. Meetings, team projects, and employee collaboration can be accomplished easily with these types of digital tools. This alone accounts for the increasing number of digital nomads who choose to work from anywhere. In addition, innovations in robotics and automation have also supported fewer workers in a traditional workspace. As these technologies overtake these tasks, opportunities to work remotely increase. Given the technological tools we have today, it’s clear to see why work-from-home options have gained momentum.
Workers Will Have the Final Say
As suggested by the survey, the vast majority of us want to work remotely. Over the course of the year, we have come to appreciate the many advantages work-from-home options offer. Remote work opportunities make better use of our time, reduce costs, and offer much greater flexibility. But remote work also has a few other advantages over office work. It has the potential to engage more people and include them in decision-making. It also promotes diversity by expanding the outreach of potential workers. And with new apps like Slack and Discord, our ability to collaborate remotely is rapidly surpassing in-person capabilities. Employees therefore shouldn’t be the only ones in favor of having working-from-home options. Smart companies who recognize these advantages should also figuring out new ways to make this dynamic most effective.
Unfortunately, change is tough at times. For many companies, they have a great deal invested in office work. Empty (or near-empty) office buildings don’t sit well for many larger corporations. Even though the case for working-from-home options is powerful, they escalate their commitment to the old way of doing things. Their sunk costs into traditional office-style work blinds them to fact that times have changed. But sooner or later, they will realize that remote work opportunities are what modern employees want. If they’re going to attract the best and brightest, that means they’ll need to cut their losses and move forward. Even if some businesses have yet to recognize the advantages of remote work, workers have. And ultimately, workers will be the ones to drive us into this brave new world of mobility, flexibility, and efficiency.
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