Few expected the transition to work-from-home during the pandemic hysteria would endure for as long as it did. Yet, like all things, time enabled easier adaptation to a remote economy. Suddenly, employees found their groove — and a preference for more outstanding work-life balance.
Upon COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, calls for the return to workplace normalcy were met with a movement dubbed the “great resignation.” Nearly two years later, leadership and employees are in a headlock over the future of remote work vs. office work.
Business owners have made distinct arguments for employees to return to the office, seemingly forgetting — or ignoring — the benefits that remote work granted them during the pandemic. Many workers have viewed their employers’ requests as needing to micromanage teams again.
Nevertheless, remote work vs. office work is a hot topic of contention across all industries. When determining which strategy is best for company culture, business owners should carefully consider the reasons behind wanting employees back at the office and the long-term implications for their organization.
Corporate Crossroads: Remote Work vs. Office Work
Remote job listings have trended upward since the beginning of the pandemic. By the end of 2020, full-time work-from-home listings jumped 5% — today, 15% of job posts are for remote high-paying jobs.
Despite the rising popularity of remote work, some renowned executives repel the concept. Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon, Morgan Stantley’s James Gorman and Tesla’s Elon Musk have all spoken out against a remote economy, mandating employees to return to the office. Amid an impending recession, employees no longer have much bargaining power, as the ball is now back in the bosses’ courts.
Disney CEO Bob Iger recently sent a memo forcing employees back in the office four days a week. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz also stated his disappointment that employees ignored his return-to-office requests — now, employees must be back in the office at least three days weekly or risk getting fired.
Reasons for a return-to-office work culture vary. Business owners have argued that remote work does little to foster collaboration and creativity. Others have jumped to the argument that teams are less productive. These factors may be true in some instances, particularly for the younger generation just entering the workforce with little experience.
The disconnect seemingly lies within old-school views of what work should look like for corporate achievement, while most executives are out of touch with their employees’ lives. For example, business leaders are unlikely to worry about child care and may boast a better office space than most workers.
A growing fear among employees is that executives will ignore their need for more flexibility and work-life balance. Returning to “what was” is simply out of the question now that working from home has proved favorable for most people.
The Argument for Remote Work
Business owners shouldn’t be too quick to turn their noses up at a work-from-home economy. There are many reasons why remote work is better for companies. Although most leaders have ultimately resolved to a hybrid setup to appease employees, understanding the advantages of home-based employment will ensure a successful workplace long term.
1. Improved Productivity
Business owners and managers have gotten stuck on the idea that employees work less hard outside the office. However, evidence has shown they have a skewed impression of remote work vs. office productivity.
Being surrounded by their personal effects and household occupants and responsibilities doesn’t mean employees are more distracted. In fact, many workers have voiced that they’re more focused without excessive co-worker interruptions and unnecessary meetings.
In one recent survey, 18.6% and 22% of employees reported being “hugely” or “substantially more” productive working remotely than at the office. About 31% say their productivity was unchanged.
Another study found that employees saved 72 minutes on their morning commute by working from home. About 40% use that time to catch up on their workloads.
2. Talent and Retainment
Although the great resignation has simmered, employees continue demonstrating that remote work matters when applying for jobs or staying with a company. Business owners open themselves to a broader talent pool and better retention rates when they offer home-based or hybrid work opportunities.
According to 24 Seven’s 2022 Talent Retention Report, 80% of workers would seek a new career if asked to work on-site most or all the time. Their desire comes down to saving time and money on their commute, the ability to spend more time with their loved ones, pursuing their passions and hobbies, and prioritizing their health.
Remote work has also enabled a more diverse workforce. For example, it allows those with caregiver responsibilities an opportunity to pursue a career. The same is true for those with disabilities requiring greater accessibility and minorities.
About 66.2% of Black workers, 65.2% of Asian workers and 62.9% of Hispanic workers desire remote opportunities.
3. Reduced Costs
Commercial real estate costs have increased over the years, but prices have spiked to new levels in the post-pandemic world. Manhattan’s Plaza District leads with the highest costs, where office space runs $117 per square foot — Menlo Park in San Francisco comes in second at $114.
With fewer employees working in the office and the unlikelihood of filling commercial occupancy to pre-COVID rates, companies are accruing unnecessary expenses in rent.
Global Workplace Analytics says businesses can save $11,000 annually with a hybrid work setup — a smart move for those considering not returning to the office full time. Instead, downscaling commercial space allows employers to invest in technology upgrades and other components that advance their organization.
4. Better Employee Health
Another argument for why remote work is better for companies is that employees tend to be healthier. Many workers have devoted extra time to their work during what would be their commute, while others have focused on their health and well-being.
Employee health is often an overlooked factor of organizational achievement. However, workers in poor health are known to have worse attendance, decreasing productivity. Long commutes might take up time they can spend working out or meal planning. Excessive workplace stress at the office is also known for hindering mental health.
Offering remote work ultimately supports employees in scheduling routine checkups and screenings and gives greater attention to their physical and mental well-being.
Remote Work Is the Future
Employees aren’t letting their foot off the pedal regarding remote work vs. office work. While bosses may have gained some control amid a potential recession, working from home is likely going nowhere. Rather than force an antiquated system on a modern workforce, business owners should consider the advantages of remote work for their organization.