CEOs say a remote workforce will last past the coronavirus pandemic

  1. Remote Work Statistics: Navigating the New Normal (2021)
  2. – Remote Work “Works” for Companies
  3. – Remote Work Attracts and Retains Talent
  4. – Remote Work Is Good for Business
  5. – Remote Work Increases Job Satisfaction
  6. – Remote Workers Are More Productive
  7. – Remote Work Leads to Better Mental Health
  8. – Remote Workers Make More Money
  9. – Remote Work Is Environmentally Friendly
  10. – Remote Work Is More Favorable in Certain Areas
  11. – Remote Work Is Impacting Real Estate
  12. – Remote Work Is Here to Stay
  13. Remote by the Numbers
  14. Keep Me in the Loop With the FlexJobs Newsletter >>>
  15. 3 lessons COVID-19 has taught us about remote work
  16. There isn’t one version of remote work
  17. Successful remote teams often require restructuring—and support
  18. Fortune 500 Executives Tell Us What Their Post-COVID Workplaces Will Look
  19. The COVID-fueled exodus to cyberspace
  20. Executives disagree on how working from home has affected company culture and productivity
  21. When executives plan to return employees to the office
  22. Want to go back to the office? Better get that vaccine
  23. Location, location, relocation
  24. Remote-first cultures and hybrid models vary by industry
  25. Top concerns about returning to the office
  26. How to support a successful return to work
  27. How do your employees feel about returning to the office?
  28. What Canada’s top CEOs think about remote work
  29. Do CEOs think remote work is effective?
  30. Will Canadians work remotely after COVID-19?
  31. Remote work and the future of urbanization
  32. As new wave of COVID-19 cases hits, remote work becomes the norm
  33. Working from anywhere
  34. Childcare crisis
  35. Zoomed out
  36. A new normal

Remote Work Statistics: Navigating the New Normal (2021)

CEOs say a remote workforce will last past the coronavirus pandemic

With millions of Americans moving to working remotely in 2020, the work landscape has changed dramatically. And with that, so too has the perception of remote work as the benefits for employers and employees a have come to light.

Having a choice of work environment and location is now a key factor for many job seekers when searching for a better work-life balance and evaluating new career opportunities.

Just how much has remote work impacted the notion of business as usual? Here are some intriguing remote work statistics that offer a by-the-numbers look at where things stand.

– Remote Work “Works” for Companies

The massive transition to remote work during the pandemic was a necessity for office-based companies that wanted to maintain operations. But the majority of companies want to continue with some form of remote work post-pandemic.

A Gartner survey of company leaders found that 80% plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time after the pandemic, and 47% will allow employees to work from home full-time. In a PwC survey of 669 CEOs, 78% agree that remote collaboration is here to stay for the long-term.

– Remote Work Attracts and Retains Talent

In a recent FlexJobs survey, 65% of respondents report wanting to be full-time remote employees post-pandemic, and 31% want a hybrid remote work environment—that’s 96% who desire some form of remote work.

What’s more, 27% of workers say that the ability to work from home is so important to them that they are willing to take a 10% to 20% pay cut to work remotely. And, 81% say they would be more loyal to their employer if they had flexible work options.

– Remote Work Is Good for Business

Research shows that businesses lose $600 billion a year to workplace distractions, and that remote workers are 35% to 40% more productive than their in-office counterparts.

Among performance-based remote work statistics in 2020, 94% of surveyed employers report that company productivity has been the same (67%) or higher (27%) since employees started working from home during the pandemic.

– Remote Work Increases Job Satisfaction

Despite a tumultuous year in 2020, remote workers report a Workforce Happiness Index of 75 100, compared to 71 for in-office employees.

And, remote employees are more ly to report being satisfied with their jobs than office-based workers (57% vs. 50%).

All in all, those working from home reported more positive measurements on almost every question related to job satisfaction.

– Remote Workers Are More Productive

According to FlexJobs’ survey, 95% of respondents say that their productivity has been higher or the same working from home, and 51% report being more productive when working remotely. Top reasons for increased productivity include:

  • Fewer interruptions
  • More focused time
  • Quieter work environment
  • More comfortable workspace
  • Not being involved in office politics

Despite pandemic challenges, working parents also report increased productivity, with 49% of working mothers and 50% of working fathers saying they are more productive working from home.

In a Boston Consulting Group study, 75% of employees working remotely report being able to maintain or improve productivity on their individual tasks, and 51% say the same about collaborative tasks.

– Remote Work Leads to Better Mental Health

In a survey with Mental Health America, FlexJobs found that respondents with flexible work options (including remote work) report better mental health. In fact, employees without access to flexible work are nearly two times more ly to have poor or very poor mental health.

Of those who do have flexible work options, 48% say their work-life balance is excellent or very good, and 54% have the emotional support they need at work, compared to 36% and 45% for respondents without flexible work.

– Remote Workers Make More Money

According to Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work report, remote workers earn $100,000+ per year more than two times as often as on-site workers. While 74% of remote workers earn less than $100,000 and 26% earn more, that’s compared to 92% and 8% of on-site workers, respectively.

PayScale analyzed thousands of salaries and determined that remote workers make 8.3% more than non-remote workers with the same job and qualifications, and 7.5% more in general—not accounting for years of experience, job title, or location.

Add to that the ability to save more money—FlexJobs estimates $4,000 a year—and remote workers come out on top.

– Remote Work Is Environmentally Friendly

One silver lining of the pandemic is that it necessitated human behavioral changes that have led to slowed deforestation rates, reduced air pollution, and improved water quality all over the world.

This positive environmental impact is due, in part, to the millions of people who transitioned to working from home, thereby reducing traffic congestion and air pollution from commuting.

When 3.9 million employees work from home at least half time, they reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking more than 600,000 cars off the road for an entire year.

Considering that 1 in 4 Americans are expected to work remotely in 2021 (approximately 39 million), that number jumps to 6,000,000 cars.

With an estimated 13 to 27 million people working from home in coming years, remote work could reduce commuting miles by 70 to 140 billion every year!

And by making environmentally sound choices— opting to use less paper and monitoring their air conditioning, heating, and lighting—remote workers have the same potential impact on air quality as planting an entire forest of 91 million trees.

– Remote Work Is More Favorable in Certain Areas

According to research by WalletHub, all states are not considered equal when it comes to working from home, with some having more favorable remote conditions than others.

12 metrics, Delaware, Washington, and New Hampshire came out on top. Some of the data points that helped determine which states were most suited to remote work include:

  • Number of people working from home
  • Internet access and cost
  • Price of electricity
  • Median and average home square footage

– Remote Work Is Impacting Real Estate

Remote work gives people more options for where they live, reducing the necessity to live near large metropolitan city centers in order to maximize career potential. And with companies allowing employees to work from home permanently, remote workers are taking advantage of their new location independence, including the 27% of respondents considering a move from our FlexJobs survey.

Whether it’s to flee cities with a high cost of living or to find more space to spread out, remote workers are realizing that they have more real estate choices than ever.

According to Zillow, 4.5% of renters in the U.S. (nearly 2 million renter households) who would otherwise be priced their current market can now purchase a starter home somewhere else in the U.S.

, thanks to remote work.

San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., is feeling the burn as remote employees search for more affordable digs. In fact, housing inventory is up 96% over last year, while listing prices have dropped by 5%. Manhattan is also experiencing a 4.2% drop in home values as residents leave for suburban markets.

– Remote Work Is Here to Stay

According to Upwork, 41.8% of the American workforce continues to work remotely. Although an estimated 26.7% will still be working from home through 2021, 36.2 million Americans (22% of the workforce) will be working remotely by 2025. This is a staggering 87% increase from the number of remote workers prior to the pandemic!

Remote by the Numbers

Remote work statistics indicate benefits across the board, ranging from environmental to performance-oriented benchmarks. If you’re interested in learning more about remote work, we’ve got you covered! Sign up for the FlexJobs newsletter for the latest in remote work, career development, job search tips, and so much more!

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3 lessons COVID-19 has taught us about remote work

CEOs say a remote workforce will last past the coronavirus pandemic

Citi’s CEO, Michael Corbat, thinks productivity may suffer with long-term remote work. ’s Mark Zuckerberg anticipates as much as half of ’s employees will transition to working remotely over the next five to 10 years. Netflix’s Reed Hastings believes working from home is “a pure negative.”

Over the past nine-plus months, just about every major CEO has declared remote work the new way of the world, a necessary evil, or—less frequently—somewhere in between. And it’s not just CEOs.

Since the start of the pandemic, my inbox has been filled with contributed pieces from thought leaders and experts which can generally fall into one of two categories: A) Why we can’t wait to go back to the office after the pandemic, or B) Why we’re never in a million years going back to the office post-pandemic.

These strong opinions make sense.

For individual workers, March’s sudden transition meant figuring out Zoom etiquette (and Zoom fatigue), wondering what happened to that “extra” time now that you don’t have a commute, and what to do when your kid or dog interrupts your meeting for the fourth time. For managers overseeing disparate teams, sometimes across time zones, this change has provided its own challenges.

Add in the fact that every worker has their own remote work set up, tools, preferences for collaboration, and tolerance for troubleshooting tech, and it’s no wonder we all feel differently.

Some love the flexibility that working from home provides, while others miss their quiet cubicles, running into their coworkers in the communal kitchen, or just having a real reason to get dressed each morning.

The data suggests that even once it’s safe again to go back to an in-person work environment, plenty of employees won’t be rushing to return to 9-5s at their office desks. In a recent report by ManpowerGroup, most of the workers surveyed said they’d prefer working two to three days in an office, and working remotely the rest of the time.

Which brings us to that sticky question of productivity—surely the lion’s share of the calculation that Hastings, Zuckerberg, or any CEO, is making. Can employees get as much done while working from their kitchen table?

The short answer seems to be “yes.” Mercer surveyed 800 employers and 94% said that productivity was unaffected—or even improved—compared to its pre-pandemic levels.

But it’s not that simple, of course. Quality matters, too. Leaders from across industries have agonized about the other intangible factors affecting remote teams.

What do video meetings mean for creative brainstorming and innovation? How can you preserve company culture when you only see your coworkers in rectangular boxes on your screen? What does it mean for employee mental health when the only thing separating “work” and “life” is whether you’re using your company-provided laptop, or your personal one?

Unsurprisingly, these factors are harder to quantify. But a few things are already clear about this huge work-from-home experiment we’ve embarked on:

There isn’t one version of remote work

Un the Buffers or GitLabs of the world, most companies were thrust into the work from home game suddenly, when the world started to shut down in mid-March. Teams first had to figure out the practical logistics (selecting video conferencing tools, distributing work laptops, etc.

) before even beginning to think about more theoretical concerns. So working remotely at some companies meant just trying to replicate the type of activities that usually happened in-office.

But at other institutions that were further along, leaders were focused on building a successful culture where employees felt connected and empowered to do creative work.

When I spoke with Sid Sijbrandij, GitLab’s CEO, back in March, just as many companies were first making the transition, he was quick to point out that “working remotely” didn’t look the same across all companies. “We’re trying to do our part in teaching the world, ‘Hey, remote is more than just using Slack and Zoom,'” he told me.

Successful remote teams often require restructuring—and support

Many companies that have decided to invest in remote work long-term have realized that it requires leadership to make a genuine investment to succeed.

That includes articulating clear goals and values—and setting an example about how remote work should look.

Creating an environment where employees remain engaged is not an undertaking that mid-level managers can solve by holding more frequent check-ins with direct reports.

In fact, more frequent check-ins and micromanaging is generally the wrong approach when trying to build a productive remote team, say experts. Instead, managers should prioritize results over hours logged.

“What if you had an organization that could eliminate most layers of management?” writes remote work expert and former CEO of Optiva Danielle Royston.

“Start to think about what changes to your business processes you’d have to make so that employees could work with zero management overhead.”

One thing that a number of tech companies, including , are increasingly opting for: Hiring a head of remote work.

The position is intended to help create a cohesive experience for all workers, says Brynn Harrington, vice president of people growth at .

“We’re looking for the person with influence, skills, and experience who can help us pivot the company. When we think about the transformation to remote, it’s a wholesale shift in how we run.”

It’s a recent shift. A report from T3 Advisors of 95 tech companies found that only 2% had a designated leader to oversee remote work in August 2020, but that number had climbed to 12% by November 2020.

One of the biggest perks touted by remote work evangelists is the flexibility it provides. Need to be home for the plumber, or because your kid is sick? Not a problem. Need to take your dog for a 3 p.m.

walk? Now you can.

And for teams that work asynchronously, workers have even more options—a boon for night owls, midday exercisers, or anyone who appreciates being trusted to get their work done when it’s most convenient for them.

But while flexibility can be helpful for working parents—especially mothers, who often shoulder the majority of caretaking responsibilities—it’s dangerous to think of it as a solution to the underlying caregiving crisis playing out in homes across the country.

Parents have been largely left to their own devices during the pandemic, cut off from much of the childcare support they once relied upon. Sure, some companies have extended flexible leave for working white-collar parents, allowed them to shift or reduce their hours, or offered additional perks and benefits.

But while being allowed to work from home is a privilege that many lack, juggling full-time work, plus supervising remote learning is untenable for months on end. So it’s no wonder many are dropping out. According to the Labor department, in September, 865,000 women left the workforce. That more than four times the number of men.

“Working mothers don’t need bike shares,” writes senior staff writer Ainsley Harris. “They certainly don’t need magic shows. They need their companies to act as better corporate citizens and advocate for policies that address the daily needs of parents across the payroll spectrum.”

Until substantive changes are made to provide families affordable childcare, women will continue to be left out.

“We’re already seeing and will continue to see fundamental rollbacks in women’s gains in the workforce—in earnings, promotions, and leadership,” Katherine Eyster, the director of strategic partnerships and policy initiatives at the National Partnership for Women and Families, told staff writer Pavithra Mohan back in August.

It’s a significant cost—and not just for the women and their families. Companies will miss out, too. And, while it may be easier to see who is missing when you’re all sitting around an office conference table and not on a Zoom call, make no mistake: Remote work isn’t a success unless it works for everyone.

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Fortune 500 Executives Tell Us What Their Post-COVID Workplaces Will Look

CEOs say a remote workforce will last past the coronavirus pandemic

With people starting to roll up their sleeves for a vaccine and employees eager to get back into the office, employers are deliberating when and how they’ll re-open their offices.

In our recent study on returning to the office and the post-COVID workplace, we surveyed 79 executives from 56 Fortune 500 companies.

Executives told us how they’re preparing for employees to return to in-office work and what, if any, changes they’ll be making. While they admit that remote work is here to stay to some extent, many are ready to swap video calls for in-person meetings once again.

The COVID-fueled exodus to cyberspace

When the pandemic hit, employers scrambled to set up work-from-home options and the remote workforce quadrupled.

Pre-COVID, the average portion of employees working remotely was just 16%, according to survey respondents.

That number has since leapt to 65%, with most employees working from their dining tables in the professional services (89%), information technology (88%), and financial services and insurance (74%) sectors (see chart).

Executives disagree on how working from home has affected company culture and productivity

50% of executives surveyed believed productivity was not impacted by remote work. 30% of executives believed teams were more productive while working from home.

But 20% reported mixed impacts across teamsand business units, with some improving while others suffering.

Leaders hold diverse views about the anticipated productivity gains when employees return to the office, with just 14% expecting better productivity in the future (see chart).

30% of executives believed teams were more productive while working from home.

Camaraderie and morale (61%) and collaboration (45%) are the top ways executives expect returning to the office will improve company culture.

When executives plan to return employees to the office

Having employees return to the office hinges on safety measures and the nature of the industry.

Most leaders are targeting a return to the workplace within the next 7-12 months (52%). Six months is the target for 30% of executives surveyed, and 13-18 months (13%) and 19-24 months (1%) is when the remainder plan to return.

Hospitality and retail leaders are ly to return sooner, with 78% anticipating a return within the next6 months.

Want to go back to the office? Better get that vaccine

Vaccine availability is the primary signal executives are seeking for a safe return. Other factors include improved treatment and testing for COVID-19, and adjustments to office spaces, including onsite clinics, temperature checks and improved HVAC systems (see chart).

Location, location, relocation

While most executives anticipate a return to the office, how that office looks and functions will ly change.

The vast majority (86%) of respondents anticipate no geographic change to the location of their office; however, over half (58%) anticipate reducing their office space by at least 10% from pre-COVID needs. Over one-third expect their office space to reduce by 25%.

58% of Fortune 500 executives surveyed anticipate reducing their office space from pre-COVID levels. 

Remote-first cultures and hybrid models vary by industry

Three five executives believe up to 25% of their workforce will continue to work remotely full-time.

Technology and financial services organizations anticipate the largest remote workforce after the pandemic, at 40% and 35% of their staff remaining remote, respectively.

Top concerns about returning to the office

As employees return to the office, workplaces will ly say goodbye to old ways.

Executives anticipate various employee concerns about returning to work. Health and safety fears (40%), caregiving responsibilities (38%), and commuting on public transit (20%) are top concerns.

To reassure employee confidence in a safe return-to-work, executives are looking to measures such as onsite wellness clinics with rapid testing, temperature screening, and physical distancing.

Companies such as Credit Acceptance are staying in touch with the needs of their employees for safe return, with ongoing pulse surveys.

How to support a successful return to work

Both executives and employees point to several actions that can support a successful return to the office:

  • Ask employees what they want/need to feel safe
  • Set up employee task forces or advisory boards to keep a pulse on how people are feeling
  • Support managers to look for signs that employees need more/different support
  • Design common areas to create a healthy environment
  • Design spaces to boost collaboration and innovation among virtual and in-office employees
  • Explore options to support employee needs for childcare and safe commuting

How do your employees feel about returning to the office?

Are your employees more productive and happy working remotely? What are their top concerns about coming back to office HQ? And how will you serve them? Survey your employees with our pulse survey to find out and plan a safe return.

Sign up to our e-newsletter for more company culture research and advice.


What Canada’s top CEOs think about remote work

CEOs say a remote workforce will last past the coronavirus pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, millions of Canadians switched from working in a central office location to working from home. Days turned into weeks, and weeks have turned into months. Now it’s almost 2021, and millions of employees in Canada still work from home full time with no end in sight.

Many Canadians wish to continue working remotely once the pandemic ends, which raises the question: Is remote work here to stay? For millions of employees, the answer will depend on what their senior management decides.

In my recent research, I analyzed the language used by chief executive officers (CEOs) in quarterly earnings calls with investors and analysts. While the discussion of remote work was limited in the years prior to 2020, it was central in the public companies’ earnings calls this year.

my analysis of hundreds of such calls, I will sketch what some of Canada’s top CEOs believe about remote work and its future in the corporate landscape.

Do CEOs think remote work is effective?

Some jobs are better suited for remote work than others. Call centre staff, for example, are great candidates for remote work because their jobs involve little collaboration and their productivity is easily measured.

Call centre staff have had a particularly smooth transition to remote work, CEOs say. (Petr Machacek/Unsplash)

For this reason, it’s not surprising that CEOs of basic service companies — those in banking, telecommunication and insurance — that collectively employ hundreds of thousands of call centre staff were the first to claim a successful transition to remote work.

Videotron CEO Jean-Francois Pruneau confirmed on his company’s earnings call last August that his call centre staff is “assuring the same standards of excellence for our customers.”

Bell CEO Mirko Bibic stated:

“By mid-April, service levels were back to what they were pre-COVID and our call centres resumed full hours of operation at the beginning of June.”

Roy Gori, CEO of Manulife, explained that the transition was seamless because the company “already had a matured work from home culture.”

For jobs that require collaboration among employees, and for which productivity is harder to measure, transitioning to remote work can be more challenging.

Consequently, team managers are more skeptical about how productive employees are when they work from home.

Ed Sonshine, head of Riocan, is dubious about the effectiveness of working from home. (RioCan)

Edward Sonshine, CEO of the real-estate investment trust RioCan, illustrated this skepticism in July when he said to his investors: “Anybody who says everybody’s just as efficient working from their dining room table with a laptop as they are in an office doesn’t live in the real world.”

After spending some time working from home, however, many CEOs began to view remote work in a favourable light. Michel Letellier, CEO of the renewable energy company Innergex, said:

“I must say that it changed the way I see work from home. I was a little bit skeptical at the beginning, but boy, it shows that we could still be quite efficient.”

Rob Peabody, CEO of Husky Energy, said that working from home “worked a lot better than I think all of us thought it was going to work.”

In the same vein, Alexandre L’Heureux, CEO of the engineering consulting giant WSP Global, initially expressed doubts in his May call before admitting in August that “the organization proved me wrong.”

Will Canadians work remotely after COVID-19?

Isolation is one of the main issues faced by employees who work from home.

When employees are separated from the office and each other, teams are at risk of losing their sense of togetherness. For some CEOs, the possibility of damaging the company culture is a deal-breaker. Gary Berman, CEO of Tricon Residential, stated in August:

“We really believe our culture is manifested and strengthened by being together in a physical office. And so, we will try to go back to that when we can.”

BlackBerry CEO John Chen takes part in an event at BlackBerry QNX Headquarters in Ottawa in February 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

For many CEOs, however, the optimal solution might end up being a compromise between working from home and going to the office each week. For example, John Chen, Blackberry’s CEO, said in his September earnings call: “If everybody worked from home forever, it will hurt productivity, it will hurt innovation. But I think there will be a hybrid model.”

Gord Johnson, CEO of the engineering services company Stantec, said in August that the majority of his staff “want to go back to the office,” but could “work from home one day a week or two days a week.”

Read more: Working from home during COVID-19: What do employees really want?

Remote work and the future of urbanization

It didn’t take long for many CEOs and chief financial officers (CFOs) to realize that letting employees work from home would significantly reduce their real-estate footprint. Amy Shapero, CFO of the e-commerce platform Shopify, said in her company’s earnings call in July:

“Most of our employees will work remotely on a permanent basis and leverage our office spaces when it makes sense.”

In the same vein, Allan Brett, CFO of Descartes, announced in May the “closure of several office facilities across the business, where we determined that employees can permanently work remotely.”

CEOs of large Canadian real-estate companies echo the future uncertainty of urban life. Mark Kenney, CEO of CAPREIT, said in August that although he doesn’t believe in the “end of urbanization … the desire to be in the core of a big city is eased right now.”

Read more: The coronavirus pandemic is pushing Canadians cities and into the countryside

Jamie Farrar, CEO of City Office REIT, said that “discussions with tenants and leasing brokers highlight the overall uncertainty regarding future space needs,” with tenants having difficulties “determining their future space requirements.”

Although some CEOs remain skeptical about remote work, many have decided to make it a permanent fixture at their companies.

In a recent ADP Canada survey, 61 per cent of millennials reported they’d be happier if they worked from home for part of the work week. Some companies have already identified that offering remote work options might help them recruit higher-profile and international talent.


As new wave of COVID-19 cases hits, remote work becomes the norm

CEOs say a remote workforce will last past the coronavirus pandemic

Gina DeRosa was thrilled when her year-long internship at the Department of Education in Pennsylvania in the United States turned into her first full-time job college.

But two months into her role, DeRosa has never met her colleagues in person. Trained entirely online by her supervisor, who she had met prior to Philadelphia’s COVID-19 lockdown, DeRosa interacts with her coworkers exclusively over Zoom.

“When you work with your colleagues right there, you can just ask them a question and walk [over] to them,” DeRosa, 22, told Al Jazeera. “It was definitely an adjustment.”

Months into the global coronavirus pandemic, the remote working arrangements that felt temporary in the spring are beginning to feel much more permanent.

Earlier this month, three major tech companies – Dropbox, and Square – all announced they would be letting employees work remotely forever. And even companies that want to bring people back to the office – media giant The New York Times – say workers won’t be returning until the summer of 2021.

Remote work is, in many ways, a privilege. Thirty-three percent of the American labour force is currently working from home full-time, according to Gallup data, and an additional 25 percent of those surveyed say they work remotely sometimes. But young people and workers of colour are less ly to be employed at jobs that offer remote work arrangements.

Gina DeRosa, 22, started her first job college at the height of the coronavirus pandemic and has worked exclusively from her apartment in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [Courtesy: Gina DeRosa]While some governments loosened restrictions and lifted lockdowns in June, July and August, a recent surge in COVID-19 cases has already caused the United Kingdom and France to reintroduce a new round of lockdowns. And 94 percent of the world’s workers live in countries with at least some workplace closures, according to the International Labour Organization.

Remote work has also been a challenge for many, especially workers juggling caring for babies or managing remote learning for school-aged children. Young people eager to go out into the world and build a name for themselves are also finding it tough.

“For young people that wanted to go out there – you want to meet people, you’re graduating from college, you want to extend your social circle. This is a time when you were going to do that,” Lynn Berger, a New York City-based career coach, told Al Jazeera. “If you’re young and you’re living by yourself, you might really [be] missing that.”

Working from anywhere

When workers were first sent home from the office in the early days of the pandemic, some found silver linings.

Andrew James, 47, a senior account executive for an enterprise software firm, flew from New York City to Miami, Florida in March to be with his long-distance girlfriend of three years.

“This pandemic, weirdly, has made me a father,” James told Al Jazeera of his new living arrangement with his partner and her three children.

James said not having to take the subway every morning, wear a button-down shirt every day and pick up the dry cleaning every week has freed up time for other things – leading to a new work-life balance that he is enjoying.

Even before the pandemic hit, more corporations were embracing the concept of working remotely as a strategic choice, said Prithwiraj Choudhury, an associate professor at Harvard Business School who led a study on the productivity effects of geographic flexibility. The study observed a 4.4. percent causal increase in productivity in a sample of 831 employees who could “work from anywhere”, living and working wherever they chose.

“Work from anywhere has tremendous benefits,” Choudhury told Al Jazeera, adding that remote working arrangements can also be good for the environment, as they reduce carbon emissions when people don’t have to drive to work. Employees in work-from-anywhere arrangements also take fewer breaks and sick days, Choudhury found.

Social support reduces stress on both sides. It's an opportunity to develop those relationships that you kind of put off for a while because you've always been so busy running around.

Lynn Berger, career coach

Childcare crisis

Choudhury’s research doesn’t look at workers’ productivity if they are both caring for children and working, however, which is where many parents are struggling to make remote working viable.

James’s girlfriend’s kids are aged 11, 16 and 17, and he said working remotely has been mostly rewarding, if challenging at times.

“We’re all just getting back into school, and I’ve had various tutoring things [I’ve done],” he explained. “It’s actually more of a challenge trying to find space, making sure we’re not on top of each other.”

Andrew James, 47, an account executive at Salesforce, relocated from New York City to Miami, Florida after his employer shuttered the company’s offices in March [Courtesy: Andrew James]Meanwhile, working parents of small children who can’t take care of themselves face even greater challenges. And while parents of all genders are struggling, the pandemic is having a major effect on mothers in particular.

Women, especially women of colour, have been more ly to be laid off, see their careers stall or have their financial security jeopardised during the pandemic, according to and McKinsey and Company’s Women in the Workplace 2020 report.

More than one in four women are considering downshifting their careers or dropping the workforce entirely, the report found, and 865,000 US women dropped the US workforce in September alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Of course, not all workers even have the option to work remotely, including domestic workers, childcare workers, service workers and essential workers. That’s also having a disproportionate impact on women, who make up more than 90 percent of domestic and childcare workers in the US, and they are largely women of colour and immigrants, according to the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

I miss overhearing conversations in the office and saying, ‘Oh, that's an interesting approach.’ I miss that sort of in-office learning.

Andrew James, enterprise software sr account executive

Zoomed out

The pandemic’s abrupt upheaval of people’s routines and the economic hardships that have followed have triggered a mental health crisis. Fifty-three percent of Americans in July said their worry and stress levels have spiked in recent months, a significant jump from 32 percent in March, according to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Even workers who are not dealing with depression or more serious mental health issues are reporting feeling burnt-out and pressured to be “on” all the time, said career coach Berger.

“We are all kind of Zoomed-out at this point,” she explained. “It’s very frustrating for many people. It can be very lonely, and it’s not healthy.”

Gina DeRosa, 22, said working remotely from her parents’ house in New Jersey at the height of the pandemic back in the spring gave her a chance to spend quality time with her brother, Joseph [Courtesy: Gina DeRosa]That’s the case for DeRosa, who said she s skipping the commute but struggles “just to create the separation between work, because everything’s being done in the same place.”

A new normal

Remote work arrangements have persisted, even as government restrictions have lifted on workers returning to offices.

Cost-savings could be one factor at play.

“CEOs and CFOs looked at those empty office buildings, and many of them have told me they’re questioning why they need that real estate,” Choudhury said. “If they can sell off a building or not rent it, that’s going to be real savings to their bottom line.”

In New York City’s Manhattan borough, for example, leasing volume in the office real estate market dropped by half quarter-over-quarter in the third quarter of 2020. Meanwhile, asking rent decreased by the sharpest percentage since 2009, Colliers International reported.

A more permanent remote work culture could also give workers flexibility, Choudhury said, such as spouses working for companies based in different regions, or people working from their home countries rather than competing for a small number of US visas.

“You can move to a country that’s cheaper for you, and if the company is not reducing wages, that means you can have more money in your pocket to buy a bigger house,” Choudhury explained. “You can be closer to your aging parents if that is a priority.”

Companies can help remote workers by offering virtual water cooler sessions, Choudhury said, and supporting childcare.

But until company and government support systems for remote workers catch up to this new reality, there is a fair amount of stress that can come with the arrangement.

For now, Berger encourages her clients to do what they can to take care of themselves, including taking time to get outside during the day “if you feel you’re getting a little fried,” she said.

“I think you have to create time in your schedule to reach out to other people,” she added. “Social support reduces stress on both sides. It’s an opportunity to develop those relationships that you kind of put off for a while because you’ve always been so busy running around.”

James’ firm told its employees that they do not need to return to the office until June of next year. James expects that even when employees are asked back, “it may be for only three or four times a week.” And while he misses the bustle of New York City, he could get used to working from anywhere, especially Miami.

“I miss overhearing conversations in the office and saying, ‘Oh, that’s an interesting approach.’ I miss that sort of in-office learning,” he said. “But I’m doing perfectly fine in this kind of remote environment.”

Source: Al Jazeera


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