When companies shut down their offices amid the first coronavirus lockdowns in March, the need to go remote was both clear and urgent. But for many organizations, the decision whether to return to work or maintain remote working arrangements—perhaps forever—is considerably murkier. Some high-tech leaders have already announced plans that remote work will be a permanent option for some employees. But other businesses are still grappling with what to do—and new research measuring employee attitudes about returning to work may help.
The State of Remote Work Survey polled more than 2,000 U.S. workers, who reinforced many of the themes and benefits of remote work that have been widely reported during COVID-19: employees say they are the same, if not more productive working from home; many say they’re saving money; and an overwhelming majority—77%—would like to continue to have the option to work from home.
Many organizations are considering extending remote work options into 2021 and beyond—and these findings suggest this is a wise move. But the survey results also bring increased clarity to the potential impacts of workplace changes after coronavirus and illuminate some of the key wants and needs of an engaged workforce.
Here’s what employees really think about…
Discontinuing remote work
Employees may not jump ship if they’re forced to return to 100% office-based work, but the majority won’t be happy about it. Two-thirds of workers say they would stay in their current job if remote work was discontinued, but they’d be less willing to go the extra mile for their employers. Forty-six percent say if they were forced to return to the office full-time, they’d look for another job.
While employee happiness and engagement are priorities in many sectors, these qualities are the lifeblood of tech companies for several key reasons. Psychologists have long recognized the link between engagement and something called organizational citizenship behavior, which essentially means a willingness for workers to go beyond their actual jobs. When you consider that Gmail was born as an employee side project, it becomes easy to see how motivated workers can spur innovation within a company. Given its high desirability, offering remote work may also play a role in an organization’s ability to recruit top talent, another key competitive differentiator within tech.
Pay cuts for employees who relocate
Facebook’s plan to offer remote work has also been seen as a cost containment strategy as the company’s work-from-home announcement was coupled with the news that it would cut salaries for workers who moved to areas with lower cost of living. Before you consider following suit, it’s worth noting that 70% of workers believe such pay cuts would be “very” or “somewhat” unfair.
Instead of penalizing employees for moving away, it’s important to think about tactics to incentivize them to stay connected to the office and that will provide greater flexibility to enable people’s best work, wherever it takes place. Re-envisioning office space as collaboration hubs can help to maintain deep connection and teamwork between employees by providing a physical space for meetings, training, and other interactions. Meanwhile, giving workers the tools they need to connect from anywhere—and to connect with employees in other offices and locations—provides optimal fluidity and flexibility.
Work enablement tools
App overload has long been a pain point for many tech workers, and research shows the pandemic has only made the problem worse. While working from home in 2020, employees said they were using more apps and tools throughout the pandemic, including the following:
- Video conferencing: 48%
- Virtual work tools: 25%
- Digital document sharing: 22%
- Security tools: 16%
- Cloud storage tools: 16%
- Project management tools: 9%
While the agility and comfort level of tech workers undoubtedly makes employing new apps easier within the sector, having to use more tools each and every day comes at a cost: it wastes time—69% of workers say they lose an hour each and every workday toggling between apps—and erodes productivity and profitability.
Streamlining where possible—for example, via an all-in-one communications platform and working within solutions that can integrate with each other, allowing workers to do more with less—can reduce much of this friction and wasted time.
The ripples of the coronavirus will be felt long after the pandemic, particularly within the enterprise. In forcing offices to go remote practically overnight, COVID-19 has accelerated shifts that were long in the works, and forced both companies and their employees to rethink the meaning of “business as usual.”
Among the most pronounced changes is the shift away from the office. But as companies consider returning to the workplace, it’s important to pay close attention to employee sentiments and needs.
Whether the ultimate decision is to allow remote or hybrid work or a full return to the office, tools that allow for seamless communication and collaboration must play a central role in the evolution of work, both during the pandemic and beyond. With team messaging, video conferencing, and phone within a single platform—and easy integrations with a broad suite of other business apps—RingCentral relieves many of the pain points of distributed teams and enables seamless collaboration wherever and whenever the work needs to get done.
Originally published Oct 28, 2020, updated Apr 20, 2021