Remote work exploded in 2020 as the pandemic forced a change in the way many companies do business. According to LinkedIn, remote job postings are up 457% from a year ago. However, many employers still perceive remote workers as less productive, less ambitious and less committed. This conundrum is playing out in real time as companies try to navigate recalling their employees to the office. Some employees want (or need) to stay fully remote while others are looking forward to a full-time return to the office.
Many employees have become more productive with the shift to remote work. Prodoscore Inc., a productivity software firm, surveyed 7,000 workers and found that they were more productive and worked longer hours in 2020 than in 2019. In another survey, many remote workers reported that they were better able to test ideas and take risks in the remote settings.
Aside from the productivity, many employees like the flexibility that remote work provides. Much of the focus in the media has been on how remote work allows people to focus on their family. However, one large piece that was ignored is that many employees are enjoying free time created by eliminating their commute. According to the US Census Bureau, the average one-way commute took employees 27.6 minutes, a new record high. 9.8% of those workers spent at least an hour commuting each way.
Despite the benefits of remote work, many employers remain skeptical. They are concerned that the remote workers will not be able to contribute to mentoring younger workers or help build the company culture. Managing a remote team also generates different challenges and requires better communication for employers. And, despite the pandemic, companies with largely remote workforces are still not the norm. Reconsidering the value of face time will benefit employees and employers alike.
Employers are not likely to shift to a fully remote work force, but they should consider whether every position needs to be in the office full time. A de-centralized office is standard for many commercial real estate companies. Brokers, property managers and maintenance staff are typically out in the field on a day-to-day basis. Employers do not think that these employees are less productive while they are out of the office. Broadening the perspective of what productivity looks like will help employers hire new talent and retain great employees. Flexibility will be the key for many companies moving forward.