Are Remote Workers Here to Stay?

Since the 2020 pandemic, Zoom has been synonymous with the remote workforce. But now, even the video conferencing giant is asking its employees to shut down their webcams and return to the office — at least on a hybrid basis. 

Zoom is just one of many American companies pushing for a return to the office, but employees aren’t having it. This ongoing debate has led to a plethora of opinions from either side, the latest coming from The Wall Street Journal. In the article ‘Workers to Employers: We’re Just Not That Into You’, Greg Ip reports growing tension between employees eager for work-life balance and employers struggling to get the most from their teams. 

So how can employers strike a balance?

The State of the American Workforce in 2023

Ip reports data showing that 39% of employees work from home — half of that number five days a week. The writer also reports that 62% of employers now offer work-from-home or hybrid options. 

These significant percentages are largely due to the pandemic, when telecommuting became necessary. But now that social distancing woes are fading into the distance, more employers are turning toward a hybrid schedule, Ip notes — a compromise to appease employer concerns of an unproductive workforce and to satisfy employees who got a taste of better work-life balance. 

Indeed, the American workday has contracted slightly, reports Bloomberg. The analytics firm ActivTrak reports that the typical workday has shortened by half an hour, further indicating that the hybrid work culture is reshaping the employment landscape.

Employers and Employees Have Different Perspectives on Productivity

Central to Ip’s argument is that employers and employees don’t see eye-to-eye regarding productivity. Citing research from Stanford University, Ip notes that workers think they’re 7.4% more productive when working from home. But if you ask their boss, you get a different story. Employers report that workers are 3.5% less productive at home — perhaps due to the added burden of connecting with remote workers.

Ip also draws attention to objective metrics, which show that the “share of employed people actually working on a given day fell from 67.8% in 2019 to 66.1% in 2022, the lowest since at least 2003.”

However, despite these numbers, there’s no denying that remote work isn’t going anywhere.

Why Remote Work Is Here to Stay

The can of worms has officially been opened, and there’s no closing it now. Ip notes that workers value their work-life balance even more than before the pandemic — the freeing nature of remote work seems to have empowered the workforce to prioritize flexible work, and many have sworn never to return to the fluorescent lights and cubicles. 

No matter where you stand on the issue, the undeniable truth is that remote work environments offer several benefits, including:

Work-Life Balance

Flexible work schedules are one of the most effective ways of meeting a universal need: balancing work and home life. Whether it’s getting back the hours spent on a commute or the ability to cook a fresh meal for lunch, this balance is often more important to workers than higher salaries. Flexible schedules are also a significant benefit for a busy parent trying to juggle career and family.

Lower Employer Costs

Employers can save money with a remote workforce. For one, there’s less need to maintain office space or equipment. But if workers are pulled from across the country, employers may be able to pay lower salaries since they don’t have to factor in a major city’s high cost of living.

Diverse Talent Pool

In-person employers are limited to workers within commuting distance, but remote employers can draw from a nationwide talent pool. So while the best person for a position may be in Oakland, California, the best person for another position may be in Austin, Texas. The point is that HR managers can focus on connecting skill sets rather than finding someone geographically convenient.

Striking the Balance: Strategies Moving Forward

While it may not be possible to remain fully remote, a hybrid workplace may balance employees’ needs for a work-life balance with employers’ demands for worker productivity.

If you’re having trouble getting people to return to the office, consider free lunches or group activities. To maximize productivity and boost collaboration while in the office, have individual teams come in on specific days. 

But employers may also need to shift their definition of productivity, making it less about the number of hours worked and more about the quality of work being performed.

Implementing a Strategy for Your Business

If you’re an employer, it’s important to start thinking about how you can create a hybrid workplace that works for your employees and your business. Focus HR can help you with this. We can provide you with advice on how to set up your hybrid workplace, how to manage your remote workers, and how to create a positive work culture.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you create a hybrid workplace that works for your business.

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