Some business owners thought working from home was just a temporary inconvenience brought on by the pandemic, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. Remote work is here to stay, at least if employees have any say in the matter. And the results are in: 78% of all remote workers surveyed by the Pew Research Center said they’d prefer to continue working remotely even after COVID is no longer a concern. This number has gone up since the last survey in 2020, where only 64% shared the same sentiment—which suggests people are growing more comfortable working from home by the day.
By now, you’re probably wondering what this means for the future of your business. Do these results suggest with each passing day your employees spend away from the office, their likelihood of ever coming back fades even more? Possibly.
But if you keep an open mind about the ever-evolving future of remote work, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.
Remote work has existed quietly in the background for years
Working from home is a relatively new concept for many business owners. However, according to the Pew Research Center, 7% of the US workforce was already working from home on a regular basis before COVID struck. So keep in mind even if remote work is new to your business, “new” doesn’t have to mean “scary.” In fact, you may find the benefits outweigh the downsides by far.
Advancements in smart home tech are remarkable
Thanks to all the recent advances in smart home technology, remote work is more practical and accessible than ever before. Recent breakthroughs like wireless mesh networks calibrate a network to the user’s exact location as they move throughout their house and make the smart home offices of 2022 more advanced than the traditional offices of decades past.
Workers can even take their independence to the next level with wireless extenders and roam more freely than ever before. However, if your employees are taking advantage of these popular new smart home devices on the clock, be sure they’re following proper smart home security protocols!
Productivity is Booming
With so much amazing new technology available, the productivity of remote workers is no longer up for debate—especially since so many studies like this one from Great Place to Work found most workers are just as productive, if not more so, when working from the comfort of home.
Let’s face it, offices can be distracting. After working in peace without loud hallway chats and restless peers getting up to fetch water every five minutes, many remote workers can’t imagine going back.
Employees love the work-life balance
Many remote employees say the best thing about working from home is the amazing work-life balance. In fact, some employees love the extra time with their families and pets so much they refuse to return to the office even if it means losing their job. The pandemic was an eye-opening, life-changing event for many people. It made them reevaluate priorities and realize what was truly important to them. Keep in mind if you implement a mandatory “return to office” policy, not all employees are going to give in.
Some bosses argue the office has its merit
Despite the many perks of working from home, there will always be some employers who just can’t come to terms with the idea of parting with their old office arrangement. No matter how promising the future of remote work may seem, 40% of managers in a study by the Harvard Business Review admitted they lacked confidence in their remote management abilities. But is this a good enough reason to summon employees back to the office when many of them are completely happy embracing the future of remote work after COVID?
Some employers seem to think so—but it’s up to you to decide if their reasoning is right for your business.
In many cases, working from the office is more secure
Although many cybersecurity experts claim working from home is just as secure as working in a traditional office, there’s one key point a lot of them gloss over: human error. Realistically, an average remote worker doesn’t have the technological prowess of your old in-office IT department. For example, while in an office setting all users may automatically connect to a VPN. However, while working from home your employees may forget to switch theirs on. And with cybercrime rates rising rapidly every year, this can be a major concern, especially when dealing with sensitive proprietary information.
However, security fears shouldn’t make or break your potential long-term remote work setup. Educating your employees on basic security concepts like video call safety and common phishing scams is a must for remote businesses. Regular online safety training and device security checkups should be implemented as well.
Collaboration is easier
One of the best arguments for returning to the office is the ease of collaboration it provides. Some bosses—and workers—feel like there’s nothing better than sitting in a conference room with the entire team and laying all their important documents right out in front of them. Although collaboration can be achieved online through screensharing, video calls, and other methods, some workers will always feel it isn’t quite the same.
Some people are lonely without in-person interaction
For some people, going to work is a social event. It may even be their main source of interaction with others. In a survey by Buffer, 20% of people complained loneliness is their “biggest struggle” when working remotely.
However, a hybrid working model (which we’ll touch on in the next section) could easily combat this. Also, if your employees live close to each other, after-work happy hours are another fun option. Even if your employees are scattered all over the country, meetups are still completely doable if you have the budget.
The future of remote work after COVID is bright
As you can see, there are convincing arguments for both sides of the issue. Working from home indefinitely certainly has its perks, especially for people with children and pets. But returning to the office has certain social benefits that can’t be ignored as well. Perhaps the real future of remote work lies somewhere in between, with a hybrid model that combines working from home with occasional office visits.
Some companies are giving employees the opportunity to “choose their own office.” People who grew comfortable working from home during the pandemic aren’t forced to give up their dream arrangement, while those who prefer a collaborative, bustling environment aren’t left feeling social starved. Ultimately, as a business owner, you call the shots. But be sure to carefully weigh the pros and cons of all three options. Don’t forget to take your employees’ opinions into consideration—if you want to keep them on board, that is.