Sydney experienced major socioeconomic changes when COVID-19 struck. Traffic dropped by 50% when the stay-at-home orders were first enforced. Rent prices also dropped by up to 8.8% when the pandemic arrived—one of the most precipitous plummets ever in the local housing market.
Other major metropolitan areas like Melbourne and Brisbane saw the same trends. What was with the mass city exodus? As it turns out, when companies implemented massive work-from-home orders and staff cuts, people fled from cities in droves. Many went home to live with families rent-free. Others found more affordable living arrangements.
But the big picture is, when jobs are no longer tied to cities, people will leave in an instant.
City life is unaffordable
People move to metropolitan areas in search of employment because that’s where the best jobs are. However, this comes with a wicked trade-off. Workers who move to the cities are subject to astronomical rent, long commutes, expensive bills, and generally high expenditures. Even at the height of COVID-19, the average median weekly rent for houses in the city was $1000.
As more people flock to cities for work, overpopulation causes mass congestion and higher demand for housing and goods. Employees spend hours commuting from their overpriced homes to their offices and spend large chunks of their income on transportation. It’s a vicious cycle of waste, and it’s all because cities are where jobs are concentrated.
With recent developments, however, that might change forever, as organisations are beginning to embrace remote work. Employees who work remotely are more satisfied with their jobs, and 94% of those who work remotely would recommend it to others. According to a Harvard study, employees are 4.4% more productive when working remotely too. A highly engaged workforce leads to greater profitability for organisations. In fact, studies show that companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147% in earnings per share.
Outside of employee satisfaction, remote work has other benefits for employers too. For example, allowing remote work enables organisations access to a wider talent pool when hiring. Whereas hiring for an office job mandates close geographic proximity, remote work can be done anywhere, anytime. Plus, employers can adjust salaries for remote employees based on the cost of living in their location, which saves money as well versus having to pay employees to live in some of the most expensive cities in the world. Organisations also save money on rent for their own office spaces.
Competition for top talent is growing. With more remote opportunities surfacing every day, it’s reasonable to expect many top organisations to follow suit in order to level the playing field.
Remote work is the new normal
The COVID-19 pandemic supercharged remote work, and despite many offices now reopening, surveys show that 74% of employers plan to create more permanent remote work jobs in the near future.
The biggest reason for this shift is to maintain employee safety and ensure business resilience while COVID-19 is still a concern. A large number of CFOs worry about a rise in COVID-19 infections affecting returns to work. If a second wave of COVID-19 ensues, then businesses will be hit even harder. For business leaders, remote work is both a short-term and long-term business continuity strategy.
Embracing the future of work
As remote work becomes a more popular solution for modern organisations, leaders must consider how flexibility will impact their workflow. Will employees work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, or will organisations implement productivity-driven metrics instead? Should employees live within commuting distance to the office, or will organizations embrace remote work and widen their recruitment? Will organisations be prepared to implement the proper technologies and procedures as the world shifts toward remote work?
Loneliness and communication are the biggest challenges for remote workers. That means it’s more important than ever for organisations to implement technology that mimics the accessible collaboration opportunities workers have in the office. When working remotely, messaging, emails, video conferences, and file sharing replace traditional face-to-face communication. It’s up to organisations to make these processes more efficient.
A common misconception is that all technology makes remote work more efficient. When COVID-19 forced businesses to transition to remote work, many organisations hastily adopted remote work solutions— a different application for messaging, emailing, conferencing, calling, and file sharing. On average employees spend up to an hour a day navigating between apps to communicate on their phones and computers. It’s no wonder that communication is a struggle.
Preparing for a remote future
With the right practices and tools, the benefits of remote work for organisations and employees greatly outweigh the hurdles. Employees working flexible schedules are more productive, happier, and enjoy a higher quality of life when they aren’t forced to live in the same metropolitan area as their office. Organisations, in turn, benefit from a more engaged workforce, wider talent pool, and save money on rent and salaries.
Money saved can be reallocated to technology that makes remote work more efficient. On the forefront of this technology is a service called unified communications, which is pivotal for organisations embracing remote work. Unified communications simplifies all of an organisation’s communications tools onto a single, cloud-based platform for team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone. It makes collaboration easy regardless of where a workforce is located.
Teams are becoming more lean, mobile, and independent of location. In order for your company to compete, the adage “communication is key” has never been so relevant.
Originally published 28 Jul, 2020, updated 29 Jul, 2020