Why the way we work won't ever go back to ‘normal’
Our pre-pandemic work lives seem like a faint memory: sitting in an open-plan office, commuting to business meetings, conducting in-person presentations and interviews.
While we miss the social interaction, the radical changes this pandemic brought have not been entirely negative. Over the past year, we have said goodbye to obsolete systems that outlived their usefulness. Companies have reacted by shifting to a completely remote-working environment.
As vaccine distribution becomes more widespread, we are frequently approached by teams asking for our insight on how remote work will evolve after the pandemic has ended. Will everything revert back to pre-Corona times?
Our verdict:remote is here to stay.
Here are the the top three reasons we have identified:
There is simply no going back: the behavioral and structural changes caused by the pandemic are too significant.
We have been working from home (WFH) too long to not have a significant impact on our ways of working. Many teams were forced into a remote set-up and had to adapt quickly because there was simply no alternative. On average, it takes a person between 3 weeks and 8 months to form a habit. Therefore, it is likely the organizational changes made a year ago have begun to sink in, habits have changed and new behavioral patterns have emerged as routines.
A phrase we continue to hear from managers is that the shift to WFH “wasn’t as bad as expected” in their companies. Their teams have coped with the challenges better than anticipated. Teams are reporting increased productivity (in some industries between 8% and 13%). Further, employees satisfied with their remote workplace tools are twice as likely to maintain or increase their productivity on collaborative tasks. Most notably, more employees are trusting their teammates to be as productive in a remote setting. In the past, WFH was seen as the equivalent of taking the day off. This is clearly no longer the case. Bye-bye stigma! Hello, 2021!
Today we are not only observing a difference in how remote work is perceived, but in the way companies are structuring themselves too. For instance, employees and companies are investing in tools and software to make WFH feasible and efficient. Companies are learning how to hire remotely, even for long-term positions. Many start-ups have even become fully-distributed companies in the past year.
WFH saves employees and companies time and money.
In many cities, a long commute into the office was common. While WFH, this time (on average 41 minutes per day) is saved and used either more productively or added as free time. But saving time isn’t the only aspect that needs to be taken into consideration. With the possibility of remote work continuing long-term, many employees living in urban cities are opting for housing with better value than their downtown apartments provide. Significantly improved living conditions are also leading employees to consider a longer commute time for the limited number of days they might need to come into the office. Some companies are even allowing employees to go fully-remote; offering the option of moving to low-cost cities or countries.
WFH saves companies money, too. With only a fraction of people in the office, companies are able to downsize their office spaces in central city locations and save remarkably on rental costs (and CEOs are already planning to do so). It’s a win-win situation.
The opportunity to hire talent globally.
To remain competitive, companies aim to hire the best talent available. In the past, the “best talent” was restricted to those who lived in close proximity to the company’s headquarters. Remote work eliminates geographical limitations during the hiring process. This is a very good argument for companies to embrace remote work.
On an individual level, talented people will no longer have to choose between personal requirements and their dream job. Remote work grants the freedom to choose one’s place of residence while keeping the opportunity to work for a top company open. This way they will also be able to live closer to their family in a different town, split their time between two residences more easily or live location-independent altogetherIn fact, countries are actively planning to attract more digital nomads to boost their local economies.
At Acapela, it’s clear to us that we are witnessing one of the largest behavioral shifts in the workplace since the invention of the internet. As expressed above, the shift to remote work will stick with us long-term and continue to drive behavioral changes, unlocking the potential for more cost and time-efficient work and reshaping organizational structures. While there is no doubt that this change will present challenges, the numerous advantages of remote work presented to businesses and individuals are promising. The benefits simply outweigh the costs.
We are bullish on what comes next!
Curious to learn more about the challenging aspects of remote work and collaboration, and how companies around the world deal with them?
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