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What will the future of work look like?

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The future of work is already here. 

Last year, when the pandemic forced workers back home, we all asked ourselves how long this way of working would last. Employers questioned whether or not productivity would take a nosedive, and workers wondered how long they could survive working at home with kids, spouses, and unending distractions. As it turns out, productivity has gone up for many organizations, and workers have settled into their home office routines. There is no going back, and many workers are actually quite happy about that.

In Deloitte’s recent Global Human Capital Trends report, the majority of people surveyed reported no desire to return to full-time work at the office. In further questioning, respondents suggested that twice monthly in-person meetings was enough to remain engaged with peers, maintain business continuity with managers, and feel energized about their work. Most telling is that the surveys didn’t reveal a bias across different job types, pay levels, or markets served. In a LiveCareer survey, 30% said that if going back to the office is inevitable, they’d like to work there just three days a week. Twenty-five percent said two days a week, and 19% said one day. 

So, what happened? Why did the people who dreaded working remotely now change their minds? 

The common thread seems to be that people feel more connected with their immediate families and significant others, more balanced in life, and more productive at work. This past year, people who used to work daily in the office held Zoom calls while their newborn slept in the next room, took walks with their dogs while the sun was still out, sat on the porch with their spouse while drinking coffee, introduced colleagues to their families, spent time with their high school seniors before they left for college, and didn’t waste any time commuting. People took a closer look at what’s important, and they don’t want to go back to the way it was before.

While it’s true that many workers showed greater levels of stress during the pandemic, this isn’t solely attributable to working from home. Researchers indicate that ambiguity and concerns around job stability, health, the health of loved ones, and the lack of ability to see others outside of their households were the most significant drivers of emotional stress and anxiety. Psychologists, who have reported greater demand for patient services, indicate that the closeness of immediate loved ones has actually played a role in diffusing what would otherwise be a higher level of anxiety and stress.

In another interesting turn, the number one reason people now list for leaving a job is – you guessed it – not having the ability to work from home. A recent article in USA Today reported that 30% of working professionals will quit their jobs if they are forced to return to work after the pandemic. Smart businesses will take workers at their word and will find ways to offer flexible work options so that they can attract and retain the best talent. As reported in The Atlantic, the meteoric rise of remote work is already leading to a redistribution of talent across the country. Businesses now can (and should) look for talent anywhere. 

Beyond remote work arrangements, office spaces have changed forever too. Many businesses are already reimagining office space to include smaller satellite locations versus large headquarters, reservable workspaces, fewer conference rooms and more spaces for occasional collaboration sessions. 

At WAHVE, we’re excited to see the remote work trend finally gain a foothold that’s going to last. We’ve always understood the power of remote work and the value of diverse talent. When talent doesn’t have to be bound by geographical locale or physical office location, you can truly build the best teams with the most diverse ideas. It’s what allows creativity and problem-solving to thrive.

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