Return to work statistics have uncovered a jumble of contradictory ideas about the post-pandemic workplace. It can be hard to keep the facts straight, but we’ve broken down what different sources are saying to give you an idea of what may work best for your organization.
It can be hard to decipher what the post-pandemic world is going to be like for organizations. Forbes predicts that “by 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month”. However, many workplaces are still pushing for the “return to normal” whether normal comes or not. So, what do employees and employers actually want?
Supporters of continuing remote work argue that if employees are able to do their jobs remotely, why bring them back into an office at all?
Flexibility has been a desirable job trait since well before the pandemic, and many people don’t want to go back to how things were before. Return to work statistics show that 16% of employees surveyed “have no interest in returning to the office” and “45% noted that if they were to change jobs, they would only accept a role which offered flexible and remote work options”.
Post-pandemic, offering flexible working options will be important for employee retention and also talent acquisition. Many employees prefer working from home, or at least having the option to, and may consider looking for work elsewhere if their needs aren’t met.
In particular, return to work statistics have shown that working parents have appreciated flexible work schedules, with 32% of working parents surveyed saying that “flexible working during coronavirus has allowed them to work more effectively”. Additionally, 57% of respondents say they want to continue working from home part-time, and 18% would be happy to work remotely permanently.
Research has also indicated that remote work has had little to no impact on productivity, with some organizations actually finding their employees are more productive at home. A recent study found that “94% of employers surveyed said their company productivity was actually the same (67% of respondents) or higher (27% of respondents) than it was before the pandemic”.
According to Gallup, employee engagement increased to “39% in January, up from 36% late last year” and employees found themselves receiving more regular feedback than before the pandemic. Remote work doesn't just benefit employees. It also benefits employers: Working from home translates to reduced costs for rent and utilities.
Those arguing against remote work are mostly concerned with poor connectivity and engagement.
The transition to work from home was less than ideal for many employees. What was meant to be a quick two weeks to help flatten the curve has been ongoing for more than 14 months. In that time people have dealt with connectivity issues, makeshift office spaces, and disruptive work environments, among many other concerns.
On top of working conditions being less than optimal, 62% of remote employees surveyed report feeling isolated. These feelings of isolation have led to increased mental health issues, with as many as 1 in 5 Canadians experiencing anxiety, depression, and/or PTSD as a result of COVID-19—and with 1 in 3 employees admitting to drinking on the job while working from home.
Employees who work from home struggle more with work-life balance and burnout. Gallup reports that “29% of people who fully worked from home reported burnout very often or always”. Additionally, although it appears that engagement and productivity have improved, managers have needed to be more proactive about performance management and actively checking in.
The solution for most workplaces seems to be a hybrid work model, which will allow flexibility for employees to work from home part-time.
While what works for individual organizations and people will vary from industry to industry and team by team, companies should ideally offer a flexible work model. Hybrid work models allow employees to work from home part-time on a schedule that works for them and their role.
Not sure what remote work model works best for your organization? Download our free guide: Charting the Future: Your Guide to Remote Work to help you decide what the future looks like for your organization.
With so much divisive information about work from home, what really makes the most sense is to gather your own data. Send out an employee survey asking for feedback about their experiences with work from home, if there are any areas that they need more support, and what they would like their work options to look like post-pandemic.