Three years after the COVID-19 pandemic created a largely remote workforce overnight, many companies are calling workers back to the office. But a remote or hybrid schedule is still desired by many employees and a survey from Express Employment Professionals, conducted by The Harris Poll, found that 82% of U.S. hiring managers at companies where employees worked remotely during the pandemic say they are planning to allow staff to continue their duties offsite.
For nearly 3 in 5 businesses (59%), remote work has had a positive impact on their company as a whole—with a third citing a very positive impact (33%). And despite the possibility of increased distractions while working remotely, productivity appears unharmed for many companies.
Among companies that offered remote work, 39% saw no change in their employees’ productivity during COVID-19 compared to when they worked in the company’s physical workplace. Indeed, a similar proportion saw more productivity from their employees (37%).
In an effort to aid the hiring demand companies face, around a quarter of companies (27%) say they are offering remote work as a result of the current labor shortage—a similar proportion reported the same in the second half of 2021 (25%).
Nearly 70% of those businesses that allow/plan to allow employees to continue working remotely (68%) do so in the hopes of retaining current employees/attracting new employees. The safety and health of their employees (41%) and employee preference (35%) are also among the motivators for continuing to allow remote work.
Shaping the Future of Work
In Nebraska, Express franchise owner Greg Sulentic says the transition to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic caused a permanent change to the structure of work.
“I believe the hybrid model will be more successful than one that is fully remote, but I don’t anticipate either iteration will go away,” he said.
Mike Brady, a Florida Express franchise owner, still sees several businesses offering the option to work from home.
“These entities are saving money on overhead costs and seeing improved performances as a bonus,” he said. “Several area companies are also moving to a hybrid work schedule, as well.”
Remote Work Advantages for Employees
Certain sectors of the workforce prefer the flexibility that comes with the schedule, such as urban/suburban commuters who gain a superior balance of life by cutting out one to two hours of total commute time, save on gas and vehicle maintenance, can sleep more, workout more, eat out less and live healthier lives, according to Sulentic.
“New grads want this option for the casual freedom that working from home brings,” he added. “Having your loving dog sit next to you while you work in your pajamas and sip coffee is attractive. Being able to choose wherever you want to live because you love it there is a draw over having to live somewhere because you work there.”
Remote Work Incentives for Companies
Not every company can offer a remote work option for various reasons, but Brady says, if possible, businesses should try.
“While the labor market seems to be easing a bit, permitting employees to complete their duties offsite has positively impacted employee retention and recruiting for the past several months,” he said. “In some industries, like manufacturing, the work must be completed onsite, so remote positions are not as feasible. Other companies may struggle to provide the tools, such as necessary technology, to allow workers to successfully complete their duties from home. But until more workers come off the sidelines, remote work is a perk job seekers are willing to hold out for.”
Sulentic adds that offering a flexible location option opens the hiring process up to a multitude of candidates and some of the best talent.
“If you are a fully remote workforce, you can access talent from anywhere,” he said. “Programmers from the Bay Area, salespeople from Texas and analysts from Chicago can work together, all while running a business from Lincoln, Nebraska. You are not limited by the location anymore.”
When, and if, the country’s lack of workers eases, it remains to be seen if fully remote or hybrid workplace options will be as prevalent, said Express Employment Professionals CEO Bill Stoller.
“As long as productivity doesn’t suffer, offering a remote work option for employees has many benefits and is a popular incentive shaping many companies’ cultures right now,” he added. “While this arrangement may not be feasible for everyone, competition for top talent is still fierce, so it may be worth a try.”