Few companies had dared to consider working from home. But the pandemic forced them and the results have been positive. Productivity has increased, and telecommuting reduces costs.
Before the pandemic, about 5 million Americans worked remotely. But COVID-19 forced American employers to allow telecommuting on a massive scale, resulting in an estimated 75 million people working from home over the past year.
Some experts say there is no turning back now that both employers and workers have learned that telecommuting can be effective.
“The pandemic has radically changed the way we view telecommuting or remote work,” says Timothy Golden, a professor of management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “The way of thinking has changed. Cultural and social norms about where and how work is done have changed… Many people and companies have realized that we can work remotely effectively. So I think remote work is here to stay. “
Companies are now trying to figure out how the workforce will perform after a pandemic. That could imply a hybrid model in which some people are in the office most of the time, some primarily remotely, and some do a combination of the two.
“We are going to err in letting more people work remotely for longer periods of time,” says Ravi Gajendran, chair of the Department of Global Leadership and Management at the Florida International University College of Business.
“So, they are going to find that that is not working so well, and the pendulum will swing slightly towards the office. It won’t go back to what it was before, but what we’re going to find is that as new employees join, as new teams form, and as people who haven’t worked together before are now working remotely, things are not going to be so smooth. “
Golden has already seen signs that companies are adapting to the rise of remote work by considering hiring a remote work manager, an executive-level position on par with a chief technology officer or director of diversity.
“If you look at the discussion about remote work, it probably didn’t exist before the pandemic. Now, I think it’s on every CEO’s mind, ”says Gajendran.