The Future of Remote Work: Did COVID Accelerate the Inevitable?

October 28, 2021
Nathaniel Hunter
Work, Remote Work, COVID-19

You most likely remember that first day the “new normal” started. All of a sudden, you didn’t have to beat rush hour traffic to make it to work on time. Instead, you were clocking in from your laptop, entering your morning meeting via Zoom, wearing your office-appropriate attire on top and pajamas unseen to the camera on the bottom. Fast-forward almost two years and many of us are still in this situation with no desire to go backwards. For others, that reality was short-lived and they had to return to commuting. So which group best correlates to our future trajectory?

Even prior to the pandemic, remote work was on the rise in the United States. Notable companies such as Twitter, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and many more have created long-term work from home options for all their employees. Still, there’s no denying that had it not been for the global efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many now-telecommuters would be still stuck in traffic on a daily basis.

From an employer perspective, capital incentive and expansion potential were too attractive to pass up, and this was long before COVID forced our hand. Since DreamView’s inception, we were able to scale at a rate that wouldn’t be possible if we had to provide office space, utilities, desks, chairs, etc., that come with in-person work. Now we only need to spend money on technology required to do the job. Additionally, we can now recruit people globally, opening the door for an endless pool of talent. Since we can hire workers from various time zones around the globe, we can create ‘round-the-clock work cycles.

The majority of employees want to continue working from home, permanently. A recent survey, reported by Forbes senior contributor Jack Kelly, polled thousands of workers from Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Apple to measure preferences. Not only do a majority of workers want to work from home, but they would turn down a $30,000 raise in order to do so. Think of all the commuters in metropolitan areas who have to spend 1–2 hours in traffic, every day, each way. That’s 10–15 hours per week. Not only can that time be recouped to do more quality work, but also allows for more time spent with family, hobbies, exercise, and rest. It provides better work-life balance.

There’s also environmental impact. Emissions can be reduced when companies no longer require employees to commute to the office. The pandemic exposed how many jobs that could’ve been done from home. As we transition into the next phase of work life, the option opens up for virtual businesses to conduct an entire work staff remotely therefore reducing our shared carbon footprint.

However, it’d be misleading to paint remote work as a panacea. One of the major drawbacks is the increased reporting of worker burnout. Jack Kelly also recently shared an Indeed study that found 52% of survey respondents are experiencing burnout in 2021, up from 43% who said the same pre-COVID. Working from home allows for blurred or obliterated boundaries between work and home life. That leads to longer hours, staying connected during off-hours, and an inability to let go of work. Some jobs require collaboration that can’t be replicated through Zoom. Certain industries necessitate that consolidated energy of being in the same room. There’s something to be said about the connective tissue of being together that drives our highest collaborative capabilities.

A hybrid solution may be the best way forward. There are still folks who thrive in that office environment and the need to create a sense of camaraderie. Moving forward, we’ll see more companies create spaces for their employees to have the option to meet and work in a shared space. Instead of coming in every day, it may be that companies institute weekly or monthly in-person team meetings just to keep the company energy thriving and fuel co-worker bonds. For workers who opt to stay home, they need to be diligent about disconnecting from work when they’re done for the day. Otherwise, work hours are analogous to a run-on sentence — it never ends. It’s vital to consistently block out lunchtime and breaks in your schedule.

The “new normal” is here to stay, but still requires some adjusting. As we rise from the depths of the pandemic, the onus is on us as employees, employers, and freelancers to show the benefits of remote work without being married to one way of conducting it. We must navigate these waters carefully for collective workforce prosperity.