WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 21 – The pandemic has changed the way we live our lives. The question is, will we ever return to the way it used to be? As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
What we do know is that the workforce has learned to get things done remotely and, for a variety of reasons, it would appear that this new way of doing business will likely become the post-COVID norm for many workers. An Apollo Technical recruiting agency analysis shows that by 2025 an estimated 22% of the workforce (36.2 Million Americans) will be working from home, COVID or no COVID.
Whether this is a good thing is debatable. It might work for some employees and employers, but it has its drawbacks as well. Another employment agency, Indeed.com, cautions that a remote workforce has its drawbacks: increased isolation, home office costs, risk of overworking, a risk to productivity, distractions at home, workplace disconnect, disproportionate work-life balance, and less face time.
In other words, bosses may support working from home as the result of the pandemic, but many of them would rather have their employees in a workplace setting because, for one thing, it enhances the ability of their employees to work as a team. It also builds comradery, which in turn increases collaboration, efficiency, and productivity. It’s easier to work as a team when team members work face to face; computer screens are not conducive to brainstorming sessions.
It is likely that a goodly number of “isolated” remote workers are anxious to return to a “one on one” work-a-day world. The Apollo survey shows that nearly 70% of full-time workers are already working from home 92% of workers expect to work from home at least one day a week going forward, and 80% expect they’ll be working from home three days a week.
The fact is that white-collar workers currently make up the majority of America’s workforce. It is estimated that nearly 60% of jobs in the U.S. are filled by white-collar workers, according to the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees [DPE]. About 14% are described as blue-collar, and the rest are what are known as gray-collar workers — healthcare professionals, firefighters, police officers and airline pilots, etc.
Obviously, the overwhelming majority of those with white-collar jobs make up the “stay-at-home-workforce.” Fewer, if any, on-site blue-collar and gray-collar workers are able to work from home and many of them like it. They get more at-home time with their families; they don’t have to endure long commutes, they get increased flex time, and, of course, they save money.
But employers have their own benefits to consider. The nearly two years of isolation have shown them that their workforce can be more productive have more time to complete assignments. And remote workers and their employers also feel a better sense of loyalty. It also gives workers more time on the job. And, of course, a company with a remote workforce has little need for big overhead expenses. They can downsize their offices, for one thing. They also save on the cost of electricity, building maintenance, furniture, and equipment.
You can bet that many of them – if not the majority – are anxious to return to an office environment. In fact, for the most part, many remote workers will eventually wind up going back to their workplaces when and if there is an end to the pandemic. But even in a world rid of the deadly threat of COVID, the stay-at-home workforce will continue to exist to one extent or another.
A survey conducted by the remote worker recruiting firm, FlexJobs, asked 2,100 remote workers like working from home and found that 58% of them would “absolutely” look for a new job if they had to return to the office in the aftermath of the pandemic. “An additional 46% and 43%, respectively, are concerned that returning to the office means less flexibility and less work-life balance.”
As for the benefits of working from home, 55% of them said that their productivity has increased, and 90% of them said that remote working allowed them to enhance their skills. More than half of them took professional development courses, 47% learned how to use remote working tools, and another 44% learned new professional skills.
In fact, according to Apollo’s researchers, “1,500 hiring managers found that due to COVID-19, 61.9% of the companies they asked were planning more remote work now and in the following years to come … Whether employers are ready or not, remote working is here to stay at least for the next few years. But, of course, there will always be those that prefer working in an office.”