Is Remote Work the "New Normal"?

Is Remote Work the "New Normal"?

We’re all navigating a new landscape in the midst of this global pandemic. For weeks, those who are still working have gotten well-acquainted with Zoom and are, perhaps, too comfortable in sweatpants. Life on lockdown has changed the way business is conducted, and it has many people wondering: Is this the new normal?

While many people used to work in a professional office and congregate around the water cooler to make chit chat, we’ve all been relegated to our homes to get work done. This means many are left to their own devices (both in the proverbial sense and the literal sense) to complete tasks, collaborate, and consult. 

While we don’t know how long the lockdown or the pandemic itself will last, we can be certain that this new remote work landscape will have implications that reverberate well into the future. We may not completely do away with the office, but the ability to be more flexible in how work is conducted will be a serious consideration. 

Pandemic Accelerates WFH Trend

A recent Gartner survey reports that 88% of organizations have required or encouraged employees to work from home as a result of the coronavirus. On top of that, tech companies have stepped up to the plate to accommodate the new needs of workers across the globe. Both FreeConferenceCall, a telecom service, and Zoom, a video conferencing service, have seen a surge in use. The former reports that usage in the U.S. is up 2,000 percent.

Remote work is not new. Before the coronavirus disrupted business as we know it, a SHRM 2019 Employee Benefits Survey reported that more than two-thirds (69%) or organizations already offered a remote work option in some form or fashion to some employees. Another 42% offered it part-time. 

Considering this trend was growing prior to the outbreak, it will likely be difficult to put the toothpaste back in the tube, so to speak. The impact of this pandemic will probably accelerate what was already happening with remote work. 

The key will be for organizations to quickly adapt to this new way of work. This includes finding a way to translate culture, operations, communications, and management to an online platform. Technology is on our side during this transition. Many of the technologies that people are now leaning on to facilitate remote work have been in existence for a while. Zoom, Slack, Google Drive, Asana, Harvest, and countless more have been — and will continue to — make remote work possible and seamless. 

What Remote Work Means for Recruiting

While there may be a steep learning curve as some organizations new to the remote work mix get set up, the long-term benefits could be worth it. Employees will acclimate to working from home, and many may come to expect it as an option moving forward. The good news is that businesses can leverage this as a bargaining chip when it comes to hunting for new talent. Remote work can be a competitive advantage for businesses that know how to use it. Not only can it help them attract top talent, but it can help in retaining talent as well. 

The proof is in the numbers. Up to 90% of U.S. workers say they want the ability to work remotely at least part of the time. What’s more, 80% of job seekers would reject an offer that didn’t have remote work options. When you consider that remote work is reported to increase productivity in 85% of companies that offer at least partial flexible work schedules and that only 7% of companies are offering remote work to most of their employees, the competitive advantage becomes clear. 

While we may be living out one big experiment as traditional offices move to the online realm, we can certainly expect some of the changes to stick. That doesn’t mean offices will completely disappear; the other side of the coin is that people will realize they don’t enjoy working remotely as much as they thought they would. There is a loss of human connection, face-to-face collaboration, and camaraderie that often gets lost in the digital translation. In-office connections are actually good for our well-being, in some cases. 

As we delve deeper into remote work and discover the pros and cons, we will likely net out somewhere in the middle. Organizations may find that offering more remote and flexible work options can be to their advantage. Alternatively, employees may find that they miss Janet’s quirky cat calendars and the “big win” meetings that culminate in high-fives all around. In the meantime, dust off your webcam, settle into your favorite sweatpants, and get ready to clock in from home.

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