2 August 2021/ rent_serviced_office_guide

Is remote working here to stay?

Most office-based workers have spent the last 18 months working from home. And while remote work has allowed people to stay safe and spend more time with their families, it has also left some feeling isolated, disconnected and burned out. As the world begins to cautiously move back to some sense of normality, will remote working get left behind with banana bread and zoom quizzes? Or will it become a mainstay of our working lives?

Many sectors surprised themselves last March with just how quickly they adapted to remote working. And over the past 18 months, millions of workers have enjoyed the perks of working from home for the very first time. But it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. And as the world begins to return to some sense of normality, industry experts are split on whether remote working has an expiration date.

What are the pros and cons of remote working?

By now, it’s clear that remote working isn’t for everyone. While many employees have loved cutting their commutes, working from their sofas and side-stepping office gossip, others have struggled. Without the social aspect of an office, a proper workspace and physical separation between work and home, some workers have felt down, stressed and unable to switch off.

In August 2020, 87% of respondents told Statista that “remote work is the future of work”. Yet, in the long months that followed, attitudes shifted. Patty McCord, Former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, says, “there are wonderful things that happen when we’re together as humans. There’s energy that can’t be replicated on a Zoom call.”

A February ’21 survey by the Royal Society of Public Health discovered that 45% of people felt remote working was better for their mental wellbeing. Yet, a significant minority haven’t enjoyed being out of the office. 29% of people believed working from home had made their mental health worse, with 59% saying they felt more isolated from their colleagues.

Do employees want to return to the office?

Surveys show that there’s a clear appetite for at least some office-based work but, for the vast majority, not every single day. For example, McKinsey’s Reimagine Work: Employee Survey, conducted in January 2021, found that 52% of workers are keen to embrace a hybrid working model. And though it varied a little based on geographical regions, around 30% of respondents said they were ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to look for a new role if their employer insisted on returning to full-time office-based work.

Deloitte’s findings were similar, with a March 2021 survey of Swiss employees revealing that 88% did not want to go back to the office every day. Reto Savoia, CEO of Deloitte Switzerland, explained that “a clear majority wants a suitable mix of remote working and office presence for the future work”.

However, according to McKinsey, a larger portion of employees say they’d prefer to be fully site-based (32%) than fully remote (11%), indicating the majority of people do not want to turn their backs on the office altogether. Deloitte also discovered an attitude gap between different age groups, with older employees more likely to use an office space most or all of the time.

How do company executives view the future of remote work?

Another McKinsey survey found that just 3% of C-Suite executives will continue with a fully remote workforce post-Covid-19. Interestingly, the percentage of respondents who expected their staff to complete at least 80% of their working week in the office dropped from 99% to just 10%. The vast majority (80%) believe staff will spend between 21-80% of their time at work. The results show that, while most bosses still see the merits of collaborative office space, there is much more room for balance.

Despite initial reservations, company leaders overwhelming report that their staff have been just as productive. 58% even said individual productivity had been improved by remote working. One thing that the more productive companies had in common was that they’d made it easier for people to connect. For example, 67% of productivity leaders reported that digital “micro-transactions” (such as instant messaging) had increased during Covid-19, taking the place of desk discussions and water cooler chat. It’s clear that if companies want to succeed, maintaining connections is vital.

Is hybrid working the future of office-based jobs?

Hybrid working has emerged as a clear way to overcome many of remote working’s biggest issues. Though its application varies across sectors and individual companies, hybrid working allows employees to split their time between remote and office-based work. Some companies may find that certain roles work better on a fully remote basis, freeing up office space for employees who can’t or don’t want to work from home. Others are encouraging office work two or three days per week, keeping teams connected while cutting down on daily commutes.

Is remote working here to stay?

Some form of remote working will continue to feature in most office-based roles. PwC found that 84% of people feel they can do their jobs just as well from home. But it’s also evident that collaborative working spaces like offices are still vital for most companies. So rather than Covid-19 signalling the death of the office, as many hastily predicted in early 2020, it has ushered in a more open-minded approach to using office space. And with a day at the office becoming a deliberate choice rather than a necessity, we may find ourselves in an era of renewed appreciation for these collaborative and community-building spaces.

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