Remote Work in 2021: What’s Changing? What’s Here to Stay? 

Nearly one year ago, half of the workforce was forced to work remotely with almost no preparation. The outcome surprised people at all levels of business. Employees adapted quickly, productivity didn’t collapse and projects continued. While the vaccine roll out ramps up across the country, business leaders are beginning to consider how the workplace will change in a post-COVID world. Will there be remote work beyond 2021? In a report to be released next week, the Motus research team explores the most likely outcomes and trends to watch. Here are a few key takeaways. 

1) Remote Work Persists 

You might not be able to see it just by looking around, but most employees that were working from home during peak COVID19 are still there. What has changed is the way companies perceive remote work as a long-term approach. In March, only 38% thought remote work would be sticking around. That number rose to 67% when surveyed again in June – a 29% increase. So what changed their minds? 

2) Productivity and Remote Work 

Pre-Pandemic, remote work seemed to be synonymous with decreased productivity in the eyes of most companies. But, in many cases, the opposite is trueFrom new project collaboration to onboarding new hires, companies have proven themselves to be effective in remote environmentsIn fact, 83% of employers now say the shift to remote work has been successful for their company. That number increased 14% since June of 2020. That just goes to show that remote work, as with so many things, gets easier the more familiar we are with it. And that advantage has far reaching effects. 

3) Employees Want Flexibility  

Whether they’re entering the workforce for the first time or ready to move on from their current position, talent is looking for the right fit. Work environments play a big factor in the decision-making process. A company’s remote work policy may help them stand out to the 40% of Gen Z and Millennial professionals that are looking for a workplace with geographic flexibility. Keep in mind, that cuts both ways. Companies with a more permanent remote work situation can widen their search when looking for new hires. 

4) Hybrid Policies are the Future 

Company culture is hard to manage when everyone is in different locations. It’s not impossible, but when the traditional office is the only office you’ve known, it’s particularly challenging. We’ve seen that remote work can be a longterm solution, but it is most likely that companies will be employing a hybrid policy going forward so teams can benefit from both the improved focus in a remote setting balanced with planned days of in-person collaboration. Workers may be required in office two or three days each week. Remote work policies beyond 2021 are likely to vary by role and industry. 

5) No Certainty For the Future of Office Space 

Office real estate is a large part of a company’s budget. For most companies, that office space has been a costly idle asset in 2020. Office space does remain essential for most organizations. Still, almost half of companies are looking into reducing their real estate footprint to lower costs. Other office parameters are also likely to changeEven in a post-COVID workplace, employee safety should remain a priority. At least 63% of companies agree office tenants will require more square feet per worker than pre-COVID levels. How does a company achieve both a smaller office footprint and more square feet per worker? If you were thinking a hybrid remote work policy, you thought right. 

The Future of Remote Work 

There’s a lot in 2021 that we don’t know yet. The world changes around us every day in both enormous and minuscule ways. The past year has reminded us that we are capable of adapting quickly to whatever comes our way. Whether it’s a long career in a company cubicle or seated at the home office, we’re capable of getting our work done. Consider these trends when you plan for your company’s future and the possibilities of remote work beyond 2021.   

Read the Report

The Author

Ken Robinson

As Market Research Manager, Ken identifies, interprets and reports on trends that affect the Anywhere Workforce.

Read more by Ken Robinson

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