Before 2020, remote work was far from the norm. Now that millions of Americans have worked remotely during the pandemic, many don’t want to go back to the office. The desire to remain working from home is so strong, many employees would forgo a raise to keep doing so. According to a survey by Blind, 64% of workers say they would choose a permanent work-from-home option over a $30,000 pay raise.
Blind’s research focused on 3,000 workers from companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft, all of which likely had a huge number of corporate employees forced to work remotely during the shutdown. The survey also asked companies with less traditional workplaces, like Airbnb, Lyft, Twitter and Zillow, and those companies’ employees responded with an even higher desire to remain remote, 71%, 81%, 89% and 100% respectively. On the flip side, the number goes down for more traditional workplaces. According to the data, out of the roughly 45 companies represented, only two saw more employees choose the $30,000 pay raise over working from home.
According to HR Executive, surveys have found that aside from concerns about COVID-19 exposure and risk, employees largely don’t want to head back into the office because of work-life balance and caregiving concerns. Furthermore, employees are eager to keep their own schedules and cut down on commuting time. In the next few months, employers will have to decide what the workplace will look like going forward.
The Realities of Remote Work
It’s not hard to see why many employees see remote work as a big perk. It eliminates commute times and provides schedule flexibility so employees can more effectively work around family commitments. According to RemoteYear.com, there are also several business benefits for having remote workers.
- More productive meetings. Having a remote team means meetings become more productive; there are fewer opportunities for team members just to chat or pop into an office or cubicle for an impromptu meeting. Because everyone must meet online, meeting times are scheduled in advance and can be drilled down to specific topics.
- Ability for employees to prove leadership capabilities. Giving employees the chance to work remotely allows employers to cut the cord, so to speak. Remote employees get the opportunity to show they can be responsible with their time and be a leader on their own projects.
- Building trust between employee and company. Because employers give employees a longer leash, trust between the two is easily built. This trust makes remote work a great incentive but also shows that your company has a culture that values its employees as people rather than replaceable resources.
- More flexibility to pursue professional development. Many development opportunities fall during working hours which may not be possible for those in an office. Remote workers typically get the flexibility to work outside of 9-5 hours, giving them an opportunity to attend training or networking events and catch up on work earlier or later in the day.
But the reality is remote work isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Experts argue that people need to be in actual workplaces at least some of the time, and according to a study by Stanford, there are several reasons for this.
- Remote workers lack technological capabilities of an office. Not only is the level of technology employees receive at home lower compared to what is generally available in the office, but the internet capacity is diminished. The study found one-third of employees’ internet couldn’t handle video calls from home.
- Remote workers don’t have enough space at home. The study found remote employees struggle with carving out space to work at home because they’re competing with partners, roommates or kids.
- Remote work may breed inequality. Working from home is widening the gap between employees, especially those paid more, according to the study. Employees with less education or lower pay don’t have the space or internet connections to remain as competitive with higher-paid counterparts. And when office workplaces are diverse, that rich interaction can be lost at home.
- Remote work may increase mental health issues. Remote work can contribute to feelings of loneliness, anxiety and overall burnout. National numbers are showing a trend toward higher stress and burnout levels in general, with 65% of employees reporting that poor mental health is taking a toll on their job performance and 40% experiencing burnout. While not every remote employee will be affected, people without past mental health issues have shown a more significant uptick in depression and anxiety symptoms than those with preexisting disorders.
Employers need to embrace the fact that employees LIKE working from home but they also need to be aware that for some it’s easier than for others. Recognizing this emerging trend in the US workplace, employers need to come up with workforce management solutions that set remote employees up to be productive and engaged. Our guide for Successfully Onboarding in a Virtual Environment is a great place to start.