By Kristen Harris
I recently heard a speaker describe precisely how I’ve been feeling lately: “I don’t work from home; I live at work.”
It’s as if we all moved into our offices and never get to go home. And it looks like this is going to last a while, maybe forever for some people. Working from home is likely to be one of the lasting legacies of COVID-19, continuing long after the pandemic threat has passed (because it will pass eventually, trust).
So, what might this new reality look like, now and in the post-pandemic future?
Safety first. Most companies are taking a very cautious approach to the coronavirus situation, having employees work from home where practical for the role. While everyone is guessing on return-to-the-office dates, many employers have said they’ll be working from home through October, November, or the end of the year at the minimum. While this is great when the role can be performed remotely, that’s just not practical for every job in every company. To help people return to work and feel safe in their environment, companies and organizations have rallied to put together guidelines, checklists, and training. One is the Safely Back to Work plan and pledge, which we joined through our industry organization, ASA American Staffing Association. This plan provides guidance we can use to help our clients when they’re ready to bring employees, including our placed talent, back into the office.
More employees working remotely. Many people are working remotely now, and we expect that to continue. Surveys are reporting different percentages, but the consensus is that many more companies will allow remote work after the pandemic. Now that they’ve been forced to try it, reluctant business leaders have been pleasantly surprised by how well it’s working. And employees definitely want it–somewhere in the range of 75% of employees want the option for at least some remote work in the future, post-pandemic, and feel they’ve proven it can be done.
Working remotely includes a variety of options. Some companies have announced that they are going fully remote, with employees never returning to the office. Other companies will designate some roles to be fully remote, while other positions will be in-office only. Working a partially remote schedule is probably the most common option being considered, where employees will be able to work some days remotely and the rest in-office. Overall, we expect most companies to be more flexible in considering remote options, even if it’s on a case-by-case basis and not an overall policy.
Reconsidering the role of the office. Before COVID-19, few employees worked remotely, and companies were very “office-centric.” The office was considered the primary location where work was done, even if some remote work was allowed. Overnight, companies had to scramble to get their employees set up to work from home, and now, months later, realize that people do not need to be 100% tied to the office to get work done. This is leading many businesses to reconsider the role of their office. Most companies will likely still have an office, a “home base,” so to speak, but it might not be the day-to-day workplace it was before. Company offices may function more like co-work spaces–a place to gather, meet, collaborate when needed, but not where the day-to-day work is done. As leases come up for renewal or companies make plans to bring people back into the office, we expect that the setup and use of those offices will change.
Remote work expands the talent pool. If companies embrace the remote working concept long-term, they’ll have access to a larger talent pool. When everyone is meeting via video and sharing files electronically, it doesn’t matter if your new hire is in the same city as your HQ or another state. When all or many employees work remotely, the interaction and collaboration experience is the same for everyone, no matter where they are located. With remote work, you also can hire talent in less-competitive cities. For example, maybe there’s an amazingly talented web developer who needs to live near family in a smaller town; with a remote work arrangement, they can still join your team no matter where they live. Also, consider that some people work better in a remote environment, without the distractions or social interactions required in an office setting. Someone who struggles with working in an office could be your next remote team superstar!
Keep in mind that not every company sees remote work as their future state. Some strongly believe in an office-centric culture and plan to get back to it as soon as possible. Ultimately company leaders need to decide what is best for their business, and employees need to determine what will fit best for them as well. When we come out of the current pandemic restrictions, we anticipate this will lead to some job changes. People may choose to take a new role with the work setup they prefer, whether remote, in-office, or a combination of the two.