Nearly three-quarters of companies have stated that they plan to support hybrid work. Most companies have accepted the fact that they must adapt to this paradigm shift in the work setting if they intend on recruiting talent. With nearly 90% of employees opting to work remotely (at least part of the time), when the option if offered by their employers, it is clear that this trend is here to stay.
There are myriad reasons why remote work has become common amongst jobs where remote work is practically feasible. Among the most salient reasons include the advancement of internet technology and relevant software. It also includes generational shifts and their corresponding workplace demands and expectations, and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic.
As internet availability, speed, and quality increased over the last three decades or so, corporations began adapting the internet to suit a variety of business needs. Emails replaced physical memos, and employees were able to remote-access their work content. Furthermore, smartphones provided access to work-related information on-the-go. Finally, teleconference meetings have all drastically changed the way that businesses operate.
Millennials and Gen Z generations indicate that work/life balance is amongst their more key values within a work setting, especially in the case of Millennials. But companies often struggled to manage the conflict associated with merging the needs and expectations of the newer generations with those of the older generations.
Work-From-Home In Practice
BestBuy was among the more high-profile companies to prototype a remote-work option for their corporate employees. They found that productivity actually increased when employees were granted the freedom to meet their job targets regardless of setting. However, due to struggling profits, they abruptly ended this seemingly beloved results-only-workplace model that allowed for remote work.
The COVID-19 pandemic was the most recent and arguably the most salient catalyst for the remote-work push in the workplace. The pandemic caused many governments across the globe to shut down businesses from operating within physical locations. The only exceptions were for those deemed “essential” (e.g. grocery stores, pharmacies, and interestingly enough, liquor stores, within the State of Texas).
These shut downs were intended to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections that occurred from human contact. Unfortunately, it left organizations with a need to adapt rapidly in order to keep their companies afloat. Needless to say, remote-work options were a life-saver for companies that were unable to operate in physical locations. At the same time, it was a powerful catalyst for employees to realize they in fact did not need to go into work. They could get their work done and meet their performance goals.
So What Happens Now?
With less than 20% of companies stating that they will require employees to go into the office full-time, the writing is on the wall. It says: Adapt or Suffer. In other words, if your company leadership is arbitrarily resistant to remote work, then the impending outcomes are all but surely going to be detrimental to success.
We have myriad cases of industry giants going under due to a lack of adaptability when it comes to consumer demands. Blockbuster, Nokia, Myspace, and seemingly countless others once had a monopoly in their respective sectors. They were slow, though, to adapt in recognizing trends that would eventually turn into paradigm shifts for entire industries.
Having said that, failure to adapt to employee demands will all but certainly have similar effects. Consequences will vary based on a variety of factors. At the end of the day, recruiting quality talent may be difficult. If your applicants and employees expect remote-work opportunities and you do not intend on providing that degree of flexibility, there could be trouble.
Long story short, the key takeaway here is to try to provide remote-work options for your employees when feasible and reasonable. The workplace has shifted from an environment where employees structured their lives around their work schedules. Today the environment is such that employees fit work into the lives they live. Gone are the days where management could effectively lead with an iron fist by directing employees via one-way communication. Rather, the workplace has shifted. Two-way communication between management and employees is essentially a mandatory necessaryfor businesses to thrive.
Associate Professor and McCray Professor of Management