The Fate of Remote Work

The Fate of Remote Work

Written by: Stephanie Bariatti, SMB Media Marketing Consultant 


            Nearly a year ago, we wrote about how working from home had the potential to be the new normal as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.  Now, as certain restrictions are being lifted and more and more people are becoming vaccinated, do employers and employees envision a return to the traditional workplace?  Well, it all depends on who you ask, but it does seem like most people want the best of both worlds.


            In a recent survey of global workers conducted by Smartway2, only 2% of respondents want to work from the office full-time and only 6% want to work remotely full-time. The great majority of workers (92%) want a hybrid working arrangement, combining work from home and the office.


Source: Smartway2

            Many workers feel that they are equally or more productive when working from home compared to in the office.  Other important benefits for some include greater flexibility in organizing time, avoiding a commute and increased comfort (allll the sweatpants).    


            However, despite all these perks, it’s still not a perfect scenario.  A study by Toluna shows that workers miss the following things about working in the office: 

  • In person sharing sessions 25%
  • Atmosphere 23%
  • The small talk and social aspect in between work tasks 18%
  • The motivation and inspiration that a workplace creates 16%
  • In person team building 12%

            Addtionally, they miss business travel.  82% miss travelling and think in-person meetings are better than virtual.  


            So if companies are to get their employees back into the office at least part of the time, what do they need to do to get everyone on board?


            Naturally, safety is a top priority.  According to the Toluna survey, most workers would only consider going back to the office if the following were to happen:

  • Vaccines 63%
  • Social distancing 59%
  • Employers offers a hybrid work environment 51%
  • Regular testing 49%

            For the big cities this has been a real hardship.  Take New York, for example.  In early 2020, there was high demand for more office space and many new construction projects underway.  After March 2020, when the mass exodus occurred, property managers were suddenly left with empty buildings and tenants struggling to pay rent.  And the loss of revenue trickles down from the huge corporations to the smallest hot dog vendor on the corner.  Much of New York City’s (and other big cities) economy depends heavily on the millions of commuters passing through each day.


            Understanding this, NYC mayor Bill DiBlasio is requiring the city’s own roughly 80,000 municipal office employees to return in early May, in part as a signal to other employers that filling New York’s buildings is a key to its recovery.


            Google is also anxious to get its employees back to the office.  At the end of July 2020, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that employees could continue working from home through June 2021.  However, most employees are expected to return over the summer and even live within commuting distance.  In a pushback to remote work, Google told employees that if they “want to work remotely after Sept. 1, for more than 14 days per year, they’ll have to formally apply for it.”  They can also apply “for up to 12 months” in the “most exceptional circumstances.”   


            Since the tech giant is such a forerunner in the business world, many other companies may begin to follow suit.  Facebook will start having people return to in-person work by May.  Ride-sharing company Uber had its white-collar staff come back to its offices at the end of Marchand so did Microsoft, when it opened its Redmond, Washington headquarters on March 29. 


            On the other hand, Twitter vowed to permit remote work indefinitely.  And as of February, Spotify told its United States employees that they could work from pretty much anywhere.


            Still, many companies seem to be promising the hybrid model that most employees are calling for.  JPMorgan Chase & Co., which has more than 20,000 office employees in NYC, have told their work forces that the five-day office workweek is a relic.  The bank is considering a rotational work model, meaning employees would rotate between working remotely and in the office.  


            Meanwhile, this challenging time may have been the perfect opportunity for some smaller and fledgling businesses.  The normalization of working remotely allowed businesses to expand their search for new talent and not just stay limited to their geographic region.  Also, businesses that were looking to acquire office space were able to do so at a greatly reduced price with rents at such a low.


            Of course, time will tell, but I think we can expect to see at least a partial office re-boarding over the summer.  What we will probably not see – maybe not ever – is 100% of employees back in the office 100% of the time.   

Stephanie Bariatti works as a Consultant and Project Manager for SMB Media Consulting.  She has had extensive experience with many facets of advertising and media, having worked for and with creative agencies, production companies and research departments.  She lives in New York with her wonderful husband, three lovable little boys and a snuggly Golden Retriever.