In 2020 organizations around the world embraced remote work. Whether your company turned to remote work tools and flexible schedules long before COVID-19, or your company was forced into creating a work from home policy for the first time this year, many had to learn how to adapt to a new remote or flexible work reality.
Now, as the world moves toward a post-COVID-19 future, will remote work be the new normal? While working remotely some employees discovered a new level of professional freedom and productivity, whereas others were faced with a difficult home life-work balance. As the world and office doors start to open up again, companies must adjust to meeting the needs of a workforce that experienced remote work and now has different expectations.
To better understand the current state of remote work and hybrid teams, and how to move forward with employees’ best interests in mind, here are the key statistics and trends you should know from the 4th annual Owl Labs State of Remote Work 2020: the COVID-19 edition.
During the shelter-in-place mandates inflicted by COVID-19, if you were wondering how many of your cross-industry peers were also setting up shop in their home office, here is your answer: during COVID-19, almost 70% of full time U.S. employees were working from home. While the majority of these new work-from-home employees were forced into the remote lifestyle due to COVID-19, this lifestyle seemed to stick—with those working from home during the pandemic wanting to continue the WFH life 123% more after COVID-19.
If your organization didn’t have a remote work or flexible work policy before COVID-19, there is no time like the present to create one. With 1 in 2 employees saying they won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work after COVID-19, a remote work policy has suddenly become a necessary factor in a company’s ability to recruit and retain employees. In 2019 our State of Remote Work report showed that 42% of remote workers planned to work remotely more frequently than they currently were, now with 1 in 2 people saying they won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work it is clear that remote work trends are here to stay.
While COVID-19 has ushered in a new way to work, it has also shifted how employees view their work-life balance. In a time when every modern employee is adding “stay safe and healthy during a global pandemic” to their balance, supporting the mental health as well as physical health of employees has never been more critical. 72% of all survey respondents agreed that the ability to work remotely would make them less stressed and 77% report that working remotely would make them better able to manage their work-life balance. To best support employee well-being, make remote work a permanent fixture at your organization.
If COVID-19 ushered in the largest ever remote work movement, it also shone a light on the capabilities of modern remote work tools and video conferencing platforms. Video conferencing technology became the go-to form of communication between remote workers, with 60% of respondents using video tools more than before COVID-19. Additionally, half of survey takers reported using email more or much more than they were before, suggesting in-person conversations may become a relic of the past.
Early data has shown that 1 in 5 Americans has relocated already due to COVID-19, emphasizing a desire from many to embrace the work from anywhere movement. With many top companies going on record that they are embracing remote work for the foreseeable future, employees are embracing their newfound freedom by leaving cities and fleeing to the suburbs for lower rent prices and more space.
While “shorter commute time” has long been on the top of the list for motivations behind working remotely, 2020 saw “fear of getting sick” take the lead. However, saving time from not commuting is still a big motivation for those who have embraced working from home, with 80% of respondents citing it as a top factor in their desire to continue working remotely. People report they save an average of 40 minutes a day when they work remotely. That is 40 extra minutes to spend sleeping or enjoying your coffee, instead of sipping from a hastily poured togo cup behind the wheel during morning rush hour.
Trust and open communication between employees and their managers, coworkers, and team members are the backbone of successful remote workers. In 2019, 82% of survey respondents agreed with the statement that working remotely would make them feel more trusted at work. In 2020 more than three quarters of respondents said they felt more trusted at work while working remotely during COVID-19. With employees succeeding remotely and feeling trusted by their colleagues, it’s no surprise that 80% of respondents expect to continue working from home at least 3x/week after COVID-19.
While working from home adds a layer of productivity for many employees, for remote workers with kids, families, or roommates also working from home, virtual meetings can become a scheduling headache. Eight out of ten full-time workers want one day a week without meetings, and 70% agree that there should be a day each week without video meetings. Besides taking a day off from virtual meetings allowing people to take a break from scheduling around the schedules of their co-inhabitants, having a full day to work without meetings splitting up your concentration has shown to produce more focused work.
While remote work has been a bargaining tool for retaining employees in the past, as well as an incentive to attract new hires, after COVID-19 it may become a non-negotiable factor for top talent. Companies will need to offer flexible working hours in order to retain and attract the best employees. The good news is, 81% of respondents think their employer will support remote work after COVID-19. So, all you have to do is prove them right by creating a comprehensive remote work policy that prioritizes the health and desires of your employees.
Prior to COVID-19, remote work was quickly becoming the preferred choice by many workers. Back when remote work was an option, instead of a necessity, employees were already noting that they were happier and more productive when they had the freedom to work from anywhere. Now that the majority of the modern workforce has experienced remote work due to COVID-19, it comes as no surprise that 1 in 4 full time employees would be willing to take a pay cut of over 10% for the choice to work from home.
It may be too soon to see the many ways our lives have been changed due to COVID-19, but if our State of Remote Work 2020 report has brought anything into the light, it is that the time has come to embrace and support remote and flexible work as we move into the future.