Business Leaders Weigh In on the Future of Work and the Benefits of Working Remotely
When COVID-19 hit, remote work quickly became the norm for many office workers. At the beginning, most of us thought the shift would be temporary — but as the pandemic nears the three-year mark, many employees and business leaders still haven’t finalized return-to-office plans.
In the meantime, traditional beliefs about offices have been challenged, and company cultures have been put to the test. Hybrid work models were already gaining traction before COVID, and the experience of the pandemic has shown us that there can be many benefits of working remotely that go beyond health and safety.
So, what’s on the horizon for the future of remote work? We tuned in to the wisdom of business leaders across the globe and across industries for the forecast.
The current work landscape
As the dust continues to settle, we’re seeing the continued rise of hybrid work models. This form of work involves a mix of working in-person — typically at an office or flexible workspace — and working from home (or a non-office space like a cafe, hotel, or lounge chair complete with pina colada, for some). Sometimes, it involves some of a company’s departments maintaining traditional office hours, while some teams work completely remotely — or a blend of all of the above.
The hybrid model is being adopted by all kinds of businesses, from small-team operations and startups to giant global corporations. Last summer, Tobias Lütke, founder and CEO of Shopify, announced that most of the e-commerce platform’s team will permanently work remotely.
“We’ve always had some people remote, but they used the internet as a bridge to the office,” he tweeted. “This will reverse now. The future of the office is to act as an on-ramp to the same digital workplace that you can access from your #WFH [work from home] setup.”
Likewise, Walmart shares Lütke’s sentiment that “office centricity is over.” The company’s global chief technology officer, Suresh Kumar, told his 10,000 technology workers that “working virtually will be the new normal” and that office space “will be used primarily for collaboration, to sync up and strengthen camaraderie.”
At question-and-answer website Quora, CEO Adam D’Angelo announced last year that “all existing employees can immediately relocate to anywhere we can legally employ them,” and that those desiring office space could utilize the firm’s Silicon Valley headquarters, which would be turned into a co-working space.
The benefits of working remotely
For the most part, employees are eager to adopt a hybrid work model. An internal Glassdoor workplace trends survey found that 70% of the firm’s employees say their most ideal post-pandemic working arrangement would be to split time between working from home and in a local office. And a 2020 survey conducted on behalf of Prudential by Morning Consult found that more than half of workers said they would like to work remotely in the future.
It’s becoming clear that the benefits of working remotely profit both companies and their employees. For instance, a remote work model means that employers can hire the best talent anywhere; location is no longer a boundary.
“When you hire remotely, you can get the best talent around and not just the best talent that wants to live in California or New York,” John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University, told The New York Times. “You get true diversity. And it turns out that affects innovation.”
Additionally, flexible work schedules and less commuting boosts health and morale for workers, leading to productivity gains. It also helps businesses lower their real estate costs and overhead, and is better for the environment.
The challenges of remote work
Of course, remote work is not without its roadblocks. Cultivating company culture and loyalty in a digital workspace, for one, is difficult. Even remote work pioneer Upwork acknowledges the struggles of effectively managing a remote team, emphasizing the importance of communication and building trust. The company recommends some in-person time for remote teams, noting, “We are not machines, after all!”
And on an individual level, remote work has created new challenges where work and home blur together. Pets, kids, roommates, significant others, and household chores all create distractions that can make work more difficult. Sometimes an office is necessary just to allow employees space to focus.
But in-person spaces don’t need to be lavish or furnished with Lego playrooms to build culture and accommodate employee needs. According to Glassdoor, three factors matter most for worker satisfaction: Having a compelling mission, promoting transparent and empathetic leaders, and building clear career opportunities for workers.
The future of remote work
It’s clear that a hybrid work model is here to stay, and that some positions can be made permanently remote. Remote work will continue to evolve with the times, and businesses would be wise to go with the flow and aim for agility and resilience.
Working from home can no longer be treated as a perk; for most industries, it will become an integrated offering. Companies will need to move toward asynchronous work (where there’s a delay between receiving information and responding) instead of synchronous collaboration (interacting live, as with Zoom or conference calls). It certainly may require some radical rethinking, but this method of work is shown to remove distractions, reduce time-wasting, and speed decision-making.
The future of remote work includes both remote and office work, demonstrating the importance of flexible executive offices. Flex office space offers in-person interaction, dynamic workspaces, upgraded amenities, and flexible lease arrangements.
The Square is invested in the future of a hybrid work model. Chat with us or book a tour.