Just last week, Ford Motors officially joined the work-from-anywhere cavalcade by announcing that 30,000 of their employees can stay remote after the pandemic. Its plan—called the “flexible hybrid work model”—will let employees choose where they want to work as long as they get their work done.
Last month, Salesforce joined the work-from-anywhere cavalcade with its announcement that employees can choose to work remotely forever after the pandemic. They aptly declared that “the 9-5 workday is dead,” and that “it no longer makes sense to expect employees to work an eight-hour shift and do their jobs successfully.”
And they’re not alone. Many other large tech companies have announced similar, dramatic changes to business-as-usual. Last summer, Facebook said its employees could work from home through July 2021, and later announced that it expects at least half its workforce to continue remote working permanently.
The company even created a position for a “Director of Remote Work,” a leader whose purpose is to facilitate a smooth transition into working from anywhere throughout the entire organization.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sent a company-wide email last May with the subject line “#lovewhereyouwork.” It read: “If you’re in a role and situation that enables you to work from home and you want to continue, do so…forever if you want!”
Microsoft now lets most employees work remotely from wherever they choose up to 50% of the time. It alsos allow work schedule flexibility, meaning the hours and days an employee works, as well as start and end times, and whether they are full- or part-time.
And the software giant VMware says that going forward, its 33,000 employees can choose to work remotely, in the office, or a combination of the two.
While some companies allowed remote work in the past, it’s never been anywhere near this scale. A Gartner survey found that 80% of company heads plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part-time after the pandemic. Forty-seven percent will allow remote work full-time.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Statista, only 17% of U.S. employees worked from home five days per week or more. Clearly, we’re seeing a trend. Conditions have changed dramatically.
The data on remote work
Before the pandemic, permanent work-from-home situations were a luxury for most. For others, it was just a dream—one unlikely to ever come true.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, though, businesses suddenly had no choice but to send their employees home for safety reasons. Although most companies had no intention of ever offering remote work opportunities, they had no choice.
Overwhelmingly, what business leaders found was that it worked. Employees were still productive and got the work done. According to PwC, 83% of employers say the shift to remote work is a success. More than half found that their employees’ productivity actually increased.
Even more employees, 95%, say their productivity is higher or the same since working from home. They cite reasons such as fewer interruptions, a quieter working environment, more focused time, and a more comfortable workspace.
It’s clear employees like working from home. In September 2020, 65% of respondents to one survey indicated they want to work remotely full-time after the pandemic, and another 31% would like a hybrid situation, where they’re in the office part-time and remote the rest. That’s a stunning 96% of employees that are interested in continuing to work remotely.
Hiring in the future of work
Job seekers, therefore, consider where they work an important consideration. Offering remote work options has become not only a business necessity, but also a competitive advantage
What does that mean for business? It means that other companies, too, will almost certainly follow the trend of offering remote work. After all, culture changes in business trickle down from larger companies to smaller ones.
Businesses of all sizes will soon understand that in order to attract the best talent, they must offer remote work opportunities.
Another big change resulting from remote work is office size. Many companies, realizing they’ll need less physical office space, are consolidating locations, and some are opening satellite locations closer to where their employees live and work. Eighty-seven percent of executives expect their real estate strategy will change over the next year.
As offices scale down in size, distributed teams—employees who work together remotely from their homes around the world—are ramping up. Distributed teams means a company can find the most qualified candidate, no matter where in the world they live, and retain them because flexible work schedules make it easy to work in different time zones. The company is no longer limited to hiring someone willing to relocate to their physical location. It’s a game-changer.
Another benefit? It means having more employees on the job, potentially responding to customers, for instance, around the clock. Employees can pass a project to the next employees coming on shift, making the whole team more efficient.
The erosion of the 9-5 job
“The 9-5 workday is dead,” wrote Salesforce president and chief people officer Brent Hyder in his blog post announcing remote work changes. “This isn’t just the future of work. This is the next evolution of our culture.”
It’s the big tech companies that are leading the charge toward hybrid work arrangements. Why tech companies? They’re known for being forward-thinking and advocating for a culture of change. They also have and already use the technologies that make remote and hybrid work possible.
It’s the right tech that allows an easy and smooth transition to hybrid, remote work. One of the first systems a company sending its employees home needs is a unified communications system.
Remote work works, but only when we’re easily able to communicate well with teammates and other colleagues. We can jump on a video conferencing call to share ideas, use that video call to interview a potential employee, or show our demo to a client. We can use team messaging to keep in touch with teammates as easily as if we were just down the hall—or perhaps more easily.
It’s the technology that makes remote work possible, and what we’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is that the technology absolutely works.
Originally published Mar 22, 2021, updated Jan 18, 2023