Over the past year, the trajectory of workforce mobility sped up exponentially. As companies begin to bring back in office workers slowly, let’s take a look at the numbers behind the future of working from home and what it means for you and your company.

 

Pre-pandemic, 31% of employees worked from home with some regularity. During the pandemic, that number skyrocketed to 88%, and 98% of those who worked from home say they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their career. In fact, people like working from home so much, that as much as 29% of working professionals would quit their jobs if they couldn’t continue working remotely (USA Today).

 

Why are workers so interested in working from home? 79% of those who prefer to work remotely say they are as productive if not more. Plus, 90% of people save money on expenses like gas, transportation, dry cleaning and food. 77% of people prefer the flexibility in balancing their home life as well which enables 54% to eat healthier on a regular basis, and 48% find themselves exercising more with time saved from commuting (MFour). All of these add up to potential employee retention and reduced healthcare costs.

 

But some challenges remain for remote workers. 42% of people working remotely still lack office essentials to make them as productive as possible. Check out Our Top 10 Picks for WFH for the favorite items from Staples Connect associates. More significantly, 54% of remote employees report rising stress and burnout as a result of increased working hours and difficulty in disconnecting. Check out these great tips from Dr. Sarah Reiff-Hekking, h.D, Time Management and Productivity Expert, on managing overwhelm and fighting procrastination.

 

It's easy to see how working from home can improve worker satisfaction. But how have companies and managers responded to the shift?

 

In general, studies have found that remote work has been equal or better to in-person work in regard to performance of employees. For those who prefer remote work, 80% of managers found that innovation in their group is better or the same and 69% felt team alignment was better or same. Employees state that they are 32% better able to manage distractions and interruptions at home and that they are 17% more creative.

 

So how are companies capturing those benefits? 81% of companies are now open to remote work regularly for employees and 66% of company leaders say they are remodeling their offices to accommodate hybrid work and 74% of CFOs will reduce office space to allow for more remote work and cost savings (Gartner). Salesforce has shared their solution for a smooth hybrid  schedule. The will begin offering 3 new approaches to WFH to keep their employees engaged and satisfied:

    • Flex: Two-to-three days in the office dedicated to collaborative group tasks, presentations or meetings with clients, in a flexible regime depending on the needs of the moment​
    • Fully Remote: People who do not live near a company office or who are occupied with tasks that do not require an office, and who will be able to work remotely all the time​
    • Office Based: Reserved only for the small minority of employees with responsibilities that require their presence there

 

As with employees, companies and managers still see challenges in the WFH future. The biggest challenge facing them are around hiring and managing employees. 42% of remote managers cite struggles in hiring remote workers, and once hired, 55% say they struggle to properly train new employees remotely (MFour). 81% of managers feel that in office settings are more conducive to coaching, managing, and mentoring compared to WFH.

 

One way that managers, employees, and teams have tried to resolve their challenges is through increased online coursework to improve problem areas. Courses that teach soft skills are among the most popular and saw skyrocketing demand throughout 2020, like anxiety management courses whose enrollment jumped 4,000% in 2020. Other courses which have seen significant increases include communication and listening skills, +1650%, business communication, +1585%, productivity skills, +990%, and motivation, +855% (CNBC). Consider offering these types of courses to your remote managers and employees to help them navigate this new trend and to continue to improve their productivity and performance.

 

For employers and employees alike, the WFH future presents significant opportunities and challenges. While there are many studies and surveys hailing the benefits of WFH, it is important that managers continuously communicate with their employees. Checking in on someone’s mental health is just as important, if not more, as checking on the status of that next project. Work from home is here to stay, now we need to work together to figure out how to make it work for everyone.