We analyzed employment trends from before the pandemic through expectations for a post-COVID workplace. We sought to answer the question: What shape will the future of work take?
Specifically, we investigated the habits of remote workers, the future plans of employers, and what some of the biggest companies in the world are doing to adapt to remote work.
References and methods for this study can be found in the Methods and Procedures PDF.
We know you’re ready for the numbers, so let’s dive in.
Our key findings are as follows:
1. Many factors impact the schedules of those working from home, but hangovers caused 26.3% of remote workers to change their working hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Priorities differ among remote workers, but they reportedly value “being near nature” over “being near family.”
3. Tech, Banking, and … the State of Massachusetts? Hybrid and “Remote First” office models are being widely adopted.
4. When given the option to work from home, only 4% of workers chose to work in the office.
5. 1 out of 3 employers expect their workforce to be at least 40% remote one year post-COVID-19.
6. 55% of employers expect their employees will work remotely at least one day per week post-COVID.
7. Some data suggests remote work has little negative impact on teamwork and workplace diversity.
8. Heavy cell phone usage and oversleeping are the top disruptions to consistent remote employee working hours.
9. A hybrid workplace model is preferred by 68% of workers.
10. 87% of companies will change their real estate strategy to adapt to remote work within the next year.
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Hangovers caused 26.3% to change their remote work hours
With the nationwide lockdown forcing most non-essential businesses to close their doors, workers found themselves with few options to go out with their drinking buddies. But, even though the bars were closed, workers in the U.S. still found ways to overindulge.
A recent survey found that 5,541 hours of work were lost during the pandemic due to employees experiencing hangovers (American Addiction Centers, 2020). 26.3% of workers self-reported that having hangovers was a significant factor in what hours they worked (Statista, 2020).
Because many American workplaces have a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol and drug use, this may cause problems for companies that rely on remote work to operate. Employers can help regulate this problem by further developing and promoting existing substance abuse counseling services, relating to workers that they are not alone, and destigmatizing the idea of reaching out for these services.
Remote workers value nature access over family time
When reading up on the benefits of working from home, many sources focus on family time. Scores of workers cherish having more time with their loved ones during working hours.
Therefore, it came as a surprise that access to the outdoors ranked as the #1 answer remote workers gave when asked what they loved most about the location in which they worked. When asked, “What do you love about the location where you work?” 47% of respondents answered, “Green space/nature,” whereas only 16% answered being “near family” (Gitlab, 2021).
Many studies have been published on the fact that introducing outdoor time, nature walks, or just a break to enjoy fresh air into a workday routine helps improve productivity and happiness among workers (Kohll, 2018).
Hybrid and “Remote First” models being widely adopted
Tech companies may be obvious answers when thinking of businesses that are quick to adopt remote working options.
Companies that offer online-only services, like Twitter, Google, and Facebook are no-brainers when it comes to working from home (Dwoskin, 2020; Kelly, 2020; Rodriguez, 2020).
All these employees use computers for much of their working hours, so transitioning from an office computer to a home computer is a breeze. But, many not-so-obvious corporations have embraced working from home.
Banking is one such surprising field that is going remote. Some of the world’s most prominent bankers, such as J.P. Morgan Chase, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, and Capital One offer partial, hybrid, or remote-first working models (Son, 2020; Withers & White, 2021; Arrons, 2020; Surane, 2020).
Despite operating in a traditional sector, the reality is that many lawmakers have been and continue to allow their officials to work from home.
For instance, the State of Massachusetts announced in March 2021 that around 20,000 of its employees would continue to work from home permanently (Law, 2021).
Only 4% of workers choose the office over remote work
Not every business has been able to operate during the pandemic with a fully remote workforce. Businesses that primarily rely on face-to-face interactions, such as restaurants, brick and mortar retail stores, and many small businesses, have had to massively adapt or close their doors for good. From Fortune 500 companies to your local mom and pop shops, businesses everywhere have had to adapt to the new work-from-home norm or forever close their doors.
Tons of studies are available to show that employees prefer to work from home, but a study by Statista shows that only 4% of workers chose to work in the office when they had the choice (Statista Research Department, 2020). This percentage may rise once COVID fears ease, but in the meantime, these results show how strongly workers prefer having the option of flexible remote-first models.
1 out of 3 employers will be at least 40% remote within a year
A study of high-ranking executives conducted in April of 2020 reported that only 4% of employers sampled had workforces that spent 40% or more of their time working remotely. When the same employers were studied five months later, 34% responded that they expected 40% or more of their workforce to be remote one year post-pandemic (Steemers et al., 2020).
Considering that 56% of employees had never worked remotely before 2020, this represents an enormous paradigm shift in the way corporations do business and what the future of work will be (Mlitz, 2021).
The increasing number of employers taking notice of the idea that remote work can be beneficial to both employees and production could be a turning point in how work is done.
55% of employers expect employees to work at least one remote day per week
Over half (55%) of executives in a recent survey reported that they expected most of their employees to work at least one remote day per week. The employees that responded to the same survey responded with an overwhelming desire (83%) to have at least one day to work from home per week (PwC, 2020).
To put this in context, only 17 out of 100 employees wanted to work entirely onsite or in an office, which shows a strong preference for flexibility. At the same time, only 45 out of 100 employers agree. This shows that while many employers are getting on board with work from home models, there is still a gulf between what employees want and what their employers are prepared to give them.
Most workers want to have at least an option to work remotely occasionally. So, the gap between what employees want and what employers are prepared to give remains divisive.
Cell phones and sleeping in are top causes for changes in remote work hours
While hangovers caused a lot of workers to change their hours when working remotely (as discussed above), two more significant contributors to differing work hours were heavy cell phone usage (72.4%) and getting up late (46.2%). These two factors rated higher than caring for children, distractions from friends or family, being less motivated, and taking longer lunch breaks. Aside from employees using their phones, the only two responses that outranked oversleeping were technical issues (67.7%) and household chores (49.4%) (Statista, 2020).
Technical issues will likely decrease as employers adjust to remote work, but caring for children, distractions from other people, and lack of motivation can be long-term problems.
These findings can be beneficial for employers who are uncertain about handling the new work from home models. If a significant number of employees are reporting childcare as impacting their remote work lives, perhaps in-house remote office daycare could be offered or discounts on local childcare services.
Diversity and teamwork reportedly unchanged or improved by working remotely
A survey of 200+ professional services and technology employees found that 59% of respondents reported that their teams worked as well or better together while working from home. Of the same pool of respondents, 26% saw remote work as increasing diversity, 23% marked an increase of inclusions, and 40% responded that there were no changes to inclusion. While there is still work to be done to level the playing field for all people, it is encouraging that only 11% saw working from home as having negatively impacted diversity and inclusion (GitLab, 2020).
However, the results of this study may not be representative of the workforce as a whole. Respondents were those who worked in professional services and technology; therefore, they may have already been working remotely in some capacity before the pandemic.
The CDC reports that the majority of those capable of remote work are white, have a college degree, and earn at least $75,000 per year. So, while diversity and teamwork may be working well for white people of means, more investigation is needed to find out how minorities and people of color see these numbers.
68% of workers prefer a hybrid work environment
Among employees working from home as of April 2021, 42% reported that they will look for a new job if their employers do not continue to offer some work-from-home options.
Regardless of whether or not remote options continue, 26% of workers said they are still planning to look for a new job once the threat of COVID-19 diminishes. Of that 26%, 2 out of 5 gave their current employer a grade of “C” or lower when it comes to their company’s culture and connectedness while working from home (Prudential, 2021).
All this adds up to signify that employees will be demanding better treatment, more flexibility, and more independence from their employers in the coming months and years. The future of work will look very different when compared to the pre-COVID era.
Workers are recognizing that they have more autonomy over their lives than they previously realized. To retain employees and keep them happy, employers will have to up their game (Liu, 2021). In fact, the Prudential report that details the findings above foresees a “war for talent” in which corporations must compete harder to retain their workforce and hire the most qualified candidates.
87% of companies will change their real estate strategy post-COVID
The world’s workforce was not ready for a global pandemic. As a result, companies were left scrambling to find solutions and allow their employees to work remotely. Offices everywhere shut their doors.
Now, the question is: Will they reopen?
Only 13% of companies expect to make no changes to their real estate strategy within the next year. Over half (61%) plan to consolidate their office spaces into just a few locations, while 58% plan to open more locations (PwC, 2021).
How do these numbers add up? Those that expect to open more locations will do so to accommodate their working populations in the suburbs. So, while planning to close some offices in the city, they will also be opening more satellite offices to cater to remote work models.
We hope you found this analysis of remote work interesting and valuable.
Now, we’d like to hear from you:
What are your favorite and least favorite things about remote work?
Employers: How has remote work affected your business?