At the onset of 2020, companies had few choices other than to establish distributed workforces or close their doors. Remote or work-from-home employees enabled organizations to continue business—albeit in a limited capacity—while adhering to stay-at-home orders issued by country leaders across the globe.
Since work from home has become the norm, multiple studies have found astonishing benefits to a distributed workforce. Among those: remote workers are more productive, they stay with the company longer, they take less time off, and they are enjoying lengthy careers.
Global Workplace Analytics predicts the longer people work at home, the greater the adoption of a distributed workforce post-COVID will be. Global also estimates that by the end of 2021, 25 – 30% of the global workforce will work from home more than one day a week.
Distributed workforces gain traction
Twitter and Square have already announced that not only would their employees work from home due to COVID-19 concerns, but the employees would have the option of doing so permanently.
Facebook expects half its workforce to be remote within the decade, and Google predicts its 200,000 employees would continue to work from home at least until summer 2021. They are not alone.
It’s estimated 20% of organizations will continue WFH through at least 2021 but when they do return to the office, it will be an entirely different environment—one that includes remote work and protective gear and social distancing in the office.
Why are tech giants embracing remote?
Employees are typically more excited about remote work than company leadership, but with multiple studies reporting that remote workers are more productive, any CEO would be wise to give the idea of careful consideration.
A Harvard Business School study concluded employees produce 4% more work each day, which equates to an extra week annually without additional payroll.
It’s not just about productivity, though. Businesses considering a distributed workforce, must consider and adapt business practices and establish or accelerate efficiencies such as AI and workflow automation for repetitive, rote tasks.
Most employees prefer remote work
Having gigantic organizations embrace the distributed model is undoubtedly essential, but for most companies, if leadership does not make the decision, their employees will.
Social distancing orders accelerated the move toward remote working to its current status because of government edits surrounding the pandemic. A worldwide issue, a study conducted by MIT in May 2020 shows that almost half of all workers may be working remotely at the moment.
A 2019 survey conducted by Owl Labs of 1,202 full-time U.S. found that 80% or more of survey respondents said they would be happier if they could work remotely, they would feel more trusted at work, they would be able to manage work-life conflict better, they would be more likely to recommend the company they work for to a friend, and they would feel less stressed.
With sentiments such as these, it’s not hard to believe that employees will be deciding the future of remote working—or at least exerting a strong influence.
Choosing where to live
When employees are required to commute to a work environment, their options for choosing where to live are limited. As a remote worker, however, an employee can live anywhere that makes them happy.
In the book the Rise of the Creative Class, David Florida describes how communities are building better cities. City planners have created amenities such as bike trails, mass transit, dog parks, golf courses, high-speed internet infrastructures, and sports stadiums to attract what he calls the “creative class.” Comprised of developers, designers, artists, engineers, architects, and the like, these people move to areas offering the lifestyle they seek.
As the creative class migrates, businesses and people that provide services—such as hairdressers, car repair shops, and accountants—follow.
Companies are no longer limited to the local talent pool. They can recruit from anywhere in the world, wherever the employee chooses to live. With a broader range of nationalities, experiences, and cultures, the company becomes more diverse—especially important for those doing business across borders.
Adapting, accepting the shift
The transition to a remote workforce will not be easy. Still, with favorable numbers in the productivity column and employees that feel more trusted and are happier, they will likely be a significant driving force propelling the trend in the decade to come.
This transition will require that business leaders embrace a mindset unfamiliar to them, but it is a change that brings tremendous benefits to the organization. Every company can reap rewards by establishing a diverse workforce in which employees are happier and more productive.