COVID-19 has changed everything forever.
That’s not my opinion alone. In the past two months I have spoken with countless integrators, manufacturers, service providers, consultants – almost every one of them mirrors the same line of thinking.
The workplace can’t go back to what it was, even when a vaccine for COVID-19 is found.
While the economy took a significant hit at the onset of mass quarantines and shutdowns, it has held steady and even grown slightly since.
There are, of course, millions of positions where working from home is not possible. There are, however, millions more where working from home is totally viable.
The United States is currently engaged in the largest work-from-home experiment in history. While this experiment was thrust upon us, I’m willing to wager that the result will be overwhelmingly positive.
Studies conducted well before COVID-19 hit showed added productivity and longer working hours for remote workers compared to their in-office counterparts. Millennials and Gen Z have shown a clear preference for work-life balance over higher salaries.
Remote work and the four-day work week have become the new bastions of the labor force, the way workers had to fight for eight-hour, five-day work weeks years ago.
The debate will ultimately come down to talent, as it so often does. Talent will win. When faced with the option of working for a company with flexible work-from-home options versus no work-from-home option, talent will choose the former over the latter the majority of time.
That’ll be especially true after COVID-19, when all employees who are able to work from home and still do their jobs will have experienced that benefit.
It is an outdated, old-school way of thinking to believe employees don’t get as much work done at home as they do in the office. The same outdated, old-school way of thinking that was once convinced business only happens in person, not over videoconferencing sessions.
In the same way that businesses saw benefits in significant drops in travel expenses thanks to videoconferencing, businesses will see similar operating expense benefits in allowing remote work: less cost for utilities, smaller workplaces, fewer workstations, and so on.
The result will be a hybrid. Imagine you have 100 employees. An office for 100 employees might cost $10,000/month to rent. However, businesses will stagger office days into groups. Every employee will come into the office three days each week, and work from home two.
They’ll still see everyone they work with in the office at some point, but only 50 employees will be in the office on any given day. Now the company pays $5,000/month in rent for a 50-employee space, as well as half the utilities they paid before.
That’s an oversimplified economic breakdown, but the logic is unquestionable.
The company loses no productivity, there is still the ability for work to be done in person, and employees get the flexibility of choosing to do certain tasks in-office collaboratively, and certain others at home free of distraction.
Companies save money and employees are happier. Win-win.
There will be some organizations that must have all of their employees in the office five days each week. There will be far more that claim that they do.
They will experience higher operating costs, and they’ll lose their top talent to organizations that evolve to the new hybrid model. They’ll either go out of business or be forced to adapt.
Eventually, it will become the norm, and economists will point to COVID-19 as the catalyst that brought about the new age of the workplace.
This article was originally posted on May 28, 2020