The global spread of COVID-19 has led to a rapid change with company employees moving to work from home and relying on remote work tools in an effort to maintain business continuity. For many organizations, this is the first time that teams have to collaborate, operate, and communicate virtually through technology.
While the pandemic continues to evolve globally, many are already planning the “after” situation: a future in which COVID-19 transmission ceases and life slowly readjusts. How does the change in workplace behavior that we are seeing now impact how we will work in the future? What can we expect from long-term remote work? How will organizations transform from that period?
3 Predictions for the Future of Remote Work After COVID-19
1) Remote Work Is Here To Stay
Many experts believe that this shift toward working from home will be more permanent, rather than temporary. In fact, a survey by global research company Gartner with 317 CFOs and business finance leaders found that 74% plan to move their previously office-based workforce to permanently remote positions after COVID-19. Among this group, the most important factor driving this change was the cost-saving benefits of remote work, a factor they have gained clear insight into during this current outbreak. This comes from the reduction of both on-site technologies spending, as well as cost reduction in real estate expenses.
At the same time, there are also financial benefits for employees: A study by online recruiting platform FlexJobs found that remote workers save up to $ 4,000 a year on commuting, office meals, and other miscellaneous expenses. These financial gains, when combined with minimal disruption or effect on productivity levels and staff well being, leave little reason for many companies to revert to traditional work styles even after the pandemic subsides.
2) Technology Will Continue To Play An Important Role
Organizations are relying more than ever on technology to enable work to run smoothly with remote employees. There is a growing demand for virtual workplace solutions that help telecommuters continue to collaborate, communicate and operate as usual. As teams move their meetings to videoconferencing, their workspace to a project management board, and their processes to digital workflows, many are seeing the huge efficiency and transparency benefit that comes from putting work online.
Similarly, social activities in the workplace and conversations between colleagues are finding their version online through employee-led group chats and virtual happy hours. With the digital workspace capable of reproducing all the elements of working together in an office, more companies are likely to stick to this as a long-term solution and method of working together as part of their “new normal.”
3) Strengthening Remote Work Policies
On the other hand, there are also a large number of employees who do not prefer to work from home, either because of distractions or because of their preference to move to a physical workspace. A New York Times article on the subject suggests that many companies will resort to a hybrid approach, that is, there could be A teams and B teams working remotely on different days. This would require companies to introduce proper remote work policies to ensure a strong workplace culture and efficient operations while working with distributed teams. Once COVID-19 ends, companies must apply what they have experienced and learned during this process to continually improve their long-term remote work policies.