Why You Might Soon Need Permission to Work From the Office
After a lengthy few months of stay-at-home orders and abrupt work-from-home policies, the country has finally begun to open up on a state-by-state basis. Some stores have returned to normal hours, restrictions are being eased, and, in some parts of the country, bars and restaurants are welcoming guests using outdoor seating, albeit with a requirement to wear masks in most instances. Whether they remain open has yet to be determined, though some are already taking action to combat a resurgence of COVID-19.
Regardless, many of us have continued working from home as businesses try to figure out their next moves. In fact, several major companies were not planning to return to the office until this month at the earliest, and Google will not return until summer 2021. Others have announced permanent work-from-home policies that will allow employees to continue working remotely if they choose.
With so many changes throughout the business world, many are starting to wonder: Is this new working reality the way of the future?
Leaving the Office Behind
Global Workplace Analytics estimates that by the end of 2021, 25 to 30 percent of the workforce will be working remotely multiple days a week. A Gartner survey of HR professionals indicates that number could be as high as 41 percent. Another Gartner survey showed that 74 percent of CFOs intend to permanently move at least 5 percent of its onsite employees to remote positions after the pandemic has subsided.
Beyond the work-from-home estimates (of which there are many), the data doesn’t lie—working from home simply works. We conducted our own internal survey to ask our employees about their working preferences. Nearly two-fifths (39 percent) asked to work from home full-time, while 48 percent want their days divided between home and in-office work. Eight percent were undecided, and only 5 percent say they want to work only in the office.
More important, our teams remained productive during the stay-at-home period. We hired and onboarded 10 employees and conducted 28 C-level management meetings and 61 HR meetings. Natterbox also completed 149 hours of management development training to help managers with goal setting and result-measuring strategy. These positive results have inspired us to explore a remote-first working strategy going forward.
Productive From Any Location
Fortunately, we're not the only ones who thrived during our time away from the office. One report found that the recent shift to remote work caused only a 1 percent drop in productivity. That drop could be erased—or even reversed with positive gains—once organizations have had the chance to refine their work-from-home procedures. One study showed that remote employees actually work 1.4 more days per month than their in-office colleagues, totaling 16.8 days of additional work per year.
Technology has facilitated this transition. We can now perform so many tasks and communicate seamlessly from anywhere in the world, eliminating the need to be there in person. At the same time, we are all still dealing with the ongoing pandemic. While cases have declined in some areas, they have increased in others. Staying out of the office might lead to fewer disruptions.
Supporting Your Team Through and Through
Whether by choice or in accordance with stay-at-home orders, work-from-home policies certainly have their advantages. It could be especially effective for companies using shared office space within the same firm or across multiple firms. It might also allow businesses to increase hiring beyond their current capacity without moving to new buildings.
Employees can't do it alone, however. While not every enterprise can afford to provide an allowance of $1,000 to expense equipment and office furniture, it’s important for businesses to support their remote workers in any way they can. This includes all of the necessary hardware (laptop or PC), software, and telecommunications technology. It could also be as simple as allowing employees to borrow an extra monitor, mouse, or keyboard to ensure they are as comfortable and productive as they would be in the office.
There's Nothing Abnormal About This ‘New Normal’
Do offices really need enough space to hold 1,000 desks for 1,000 people if they aren’t required to be there in person? For businesses that do, is everyone onsite simultaneously—or is there room to share the space throughout the day as employees come and go?
These are some of the important questions that will be asked as employers reevaluate where we should work going forward. In time, work-from-home policies could become the new normal—instead of asking permission to work remotely, you will end up asking for permission to work from the office. And with evolving telecommunications technology at our fingertips, businesses can transition their workforce without losing the tools of a traditional work environment.
Tim Beeson is global alliances director at Natterbox, based in Chicago. He joined Natterbox in 2010 and has played an instrumental role in forging alliances for Natterbox with Salesforce. Previously, Beeson led the Natterbox U.K. sales division and global alliances segment, securing large accounts like Groupon.