How COVID-19 Has Turned our World into Remote Workers
Last Updated on November 24, 2021 by James Wilson
What’s The Current State of Play?
Before the Coronavirus pandemic, 4.7 million people in the U.S. were already working from home (around 3.4% of the U.S. workforce). A global survey conducted by Gartner suggests that 88% of organisations worldwide had mandated or encouraged their employees to work from home during the spread of COVID-19.
Many large companies like Twitter and Facebook have said their employees can work from home forever. However, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that employees who move to lower-cost locations, away from San Francisco, may need to take a pay cut to compensate with the salary rate appropriate to their new location.
Around 25% of employees who can return to work say they are emotionally ready, whilst another 25% say they are concern about returning to work due to the risks of contracting COVID-19. 50% say they would prefer to work remotely.
We’ve created an infographic which shows all the latest 2020 statistics relating to the new norm of working from home (embed code below).
How Have Companies Adapted?
Whilst the initial thought of working from home was daunting for many companies, wondering how they’d adapt and continue to work effectively, 2020 has proven that we can many industries can adopt this new way of working.
Technologies like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Slack, etc. have meant people can smoothly transition to a new remote working setup. Not only that, but employees have also come to the realisation that they could avoid long and tedious commutes, families have spent more time together, and CEOs have understood the potential savings they could make.
As of today, Shopify is a digital by default company. We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality. And after that, most will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over.
— Tobi Lütke (@tobi) May 21, 2020
Shopify’s, Tobi Lutke, announced in May 2020 that Shopify would keep their offices closed until 2021. Following this, they intend for most of their employees to work remotely. What’s happening is employees and employers are adapting to a new reality which works well, saves money, and makes people happier.
What Are The Benefits of Working From Home?
Remote working has plenty of advantages for workers and employers. You may already be aware of some of the benefits, and others not so much. However, as the world shifts to a new normal, it’s important to assess how remote work impacts people, the economy, and the environment.
- Less Commuting: In the U.K., the average commute rose to an hour in 2017, and in the U.S., this is around 27 minutes one-way. By working from home, workers can save hundreds of hours commuting each year. Not only does this relieve mental and physical stress, but it also has a huge impact on the environment.
- Better Balance: Taking into consideration the amount of time workers spend commuting, remote workers will have more time to spend at home and with their families. Flexible schedules mean workers can attend appointments, school plays, and run errands.
- Saving Money: It’s estimated that people working from home at least half the time can save around $2,000 to $6,500 per year. This takes into account fuel, car maintenance, parking charges, work uniforms, lunch, etc. Not only do employees save money, but companies can also see long-term savings of around $11,000 per year for every employee that works from home some of the time. Overheads, property costs, operational costs, and more, all contribute to the everyday running costs of an office or workplace.
- Productivity: In a 2019 annual survey, FlexJobs found that 65% of professionals think they are more productive when working remotely. Generally speaking, when you work from home, you have fewer interruptions, fewer chats at the coffee machine, and will often have lunch at your desk or even continue working later than planned.
- Environmental: If you work from home, you are less likely to use your car, and you certainly won’t be using it to travel to work. According to the State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce, 3.9 million employees working from home at least half the time can be the equivalent of taking more than 600,000 cars off the road for a whole year. On top of the travel, employees are less likely to have lights on all day, air conditioning or heating on for 24 hours, and will use less paper. All of these things add up to making a positive environmental impact.
Companies Who Are Working From Home
I’ve mentioned a few big companies who are moving towards or already have implemented a remote working strategy for the long-term. However, this new movement has spurred many big companies and organisations to make the big leap to a remote-first model, including:
. @Upwork knows firsthand the incredible outcomes that distributed teams can deliver. Building on our 20 years of experience as a remote work company, we are now permanently embracing a "remote-first" model.
— Hayden Brown (@hydnbrwn) May 22, 2020
Hayden Brown, CEO of Upwork, said “Going forward, working remotely will be the default for everyone, while teams will also be able to come together – once it’s safe – for intentional collaboration and socialization. The #futureofwork is here.”
Upwork is a global freelancing platform who have undertaken a big challenge and recognised the strengths in embracing a remote-first way of working.
Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, announced in May 2020 that post-COVID-19, Coinbase will become a remote-first company. Coinbase has announced that they recognise more and more people are trading with and using cryptocurrency, even more so during the recent economic crisis. They are continuing to grow as a company and are still hiring employees to work for a remote-first company.
Brian said: “After the restrictions of quarantine are over, Coinbase will embrace being “remote-first,” meaning we will offer the option to work in an office or remotely for the vast majority of roles.” He also confirmed: “I believe that the future of work will look very different after the universal, forced work from home experiment of COVID-19. Over the last two months, I have come to believe that not only is remote work here to stay but that it represents a huge opportunity and strategic advantage for us. Today, I’m excited to share that the future of Coinbase is remote-first.”
Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and PayPal
Major companies like Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Slack, Amazon, Capital One, and many more have announced they are extending their working from home options. Whilst they may not all be working from home all of the time, they are exploring their options and offering as much flexibility as they can within their industries and roles.
Another term coined from COVID-19 is that of hybrid working. A middle ground between remote working and office working. Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, recently said “At the same time, we know the power of having office hubs where in-person communities, mentorship, networking, and creativity can happen…That is why our future is a hybrid one.”
Companies like Apple have encouraged some of their employees to return to work, however, it wouldn’t surprise us if they took it upon themselves to embrace a hybrid way of working. Having the flexibility to communicate in person with colleagues whilst having the option to work remotely when needed is probably something that many companies will look to adopt.
Remote Working Statistics 2020
- 77% of remote workers claim they are more productive when working from home (CoSo Cloud)
- 37% of remote workers take regular breaks to remain productive (Airtasker)
- 33% of telecommuters say having set working hours helps them stay more productive (Airtasker)
- 80% of remote workers experience less work-related stress (Amerisleep)
- 75% of people working from home say there are fewer distractions (Flexjobs)
- U.S. companies that offer remote working have a 25% lower employee turnover rate (Buffer)
- 20% of remote workers say that communication is an obstacle (Buffer)
- 99% of remote workers would like to continue working from home in some capacity (Buffer)
- 42% of employees who work from home plan to work remotely more regularly in the next 5 years (Owl Labs)
- By 2028, 73% of teams will have remote workers (Upwork)
The Future of Remote Working
Post COVID-19, I strongly believe remote working, or at least hybrid working, will become the ‘new normal’. The shift to remote work has meant many companies can continue to operate whilst ensuring their employees are kept safe. Individuals who have had the opportunity to work from home during COVID-19 have enjoyed more time with their families, more time to exercise, less time commuting, and may have possibly saved some money.
However, for those who have lost their jobs and the soaring rates of unemployment, how can remote working shape their futures? There are certainly opportunities in many different industries to leverage remote working, or hybrid working, to allow more flexibility, job-sharing, and ultimately saving or creating new jobs for those without. We may see shorter working weeks, or desk sharing, alongside reshaping the way we work for our future.
The transformation to a more digitally focussed world has created new possibilities to engage in remote work, alongside other benefits. Our future digital world is likely to be the new normal, with more people working remotely around the world. This will also mean the demand for skilled workers will be very high, allowing more opportunities for the likes of supermarket staff, teachers, care workers, etc.
Download this infographic.