WFH Lifts Productivity by 5% in the Post-Pandemic US
COVID-19 has changed the work landscape significantly, but perhaps one of the most significant changes to come out of the pandemic was the shift to work from home (WFH). Given all the quarantines, lockdowns, and travel restrictions, businesses had to transition into remote work to maintain operations. This proved to be challenging for many people, especially those who were used to traditional working methods.
Fast forward to 2022—two years since the start of the pandemic—and WFH has become part of the new normal. However, with several differences between face-to-face and remote working, many continue to question the effectiveness of working from home. To better understand the answer to this, check out these statistics that may surprise you about the WFH setup.
State of Remote Work Today
To start, you might be wondering about the state of remote work today. Here are the key statistics from Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work report to get a good picture of the situation:
- 97.6% of respondents want to work remotely at some point in their careers, while 97% would recommend this setup to others. Flexibility was found to be the main reason for their sentiments, with 32% saying they like having a flexible schedule and 25% saying they like having the flexibility to work from anywhere.
- When asked about their employers’ future plans, 46% noted that their company plans to allow remote work permanently, while 38% were still uncertain.
Employers’ and Employees’ View on Remote Work
Remote work was already here before the pandemic, but the situation certainly accelerated its growth. Now that restrictions are easing and some companies have already returned to the office, what does the future of remote work look like?
To help you understand the outlook, here are some interesting statistics from Owl Labs’ 2021 Report based on a survey conducted on 2,050 workers:
- Out of everyone who has gone back to the office, 57% said that they prefer remote working full-time. In fact, 32% of those who experienced remote working would quit their job if they could not work from home moving forward.
- Flexibility in work is growing increasingly important, with 87% of employees considering this an essential factor when choosing an employer.
Clearly, employees enjoy the flexibility that remote work offers. But how does it look on the company side? Surprisingly, many companies also see the value in WFH. A Gartner survey done in 2020 revealed that 74% of CFOs plan to move at least 5% of their workforce to permanent remote positions even after the pandemic.
Similarly, many large companies have also pivoted into fully remote or hybrid setups. Notable names include Shopify, Twitter, Upwork, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, which all operate on a remote-first hybrid model. This gives most employees the option to continue working from home, save for a few positions that need in-person work.
Future of Remote Work
Overall, the verdict is that WFH is not going anywhere and is here to stay. Of course, there are also tradeoffs to this choice, but many agree that this new way of working brings tons of value to companies and employees. With this, here are some projections on what the remote work scene will look like in the future:
- By 2025, there will be around 36.2 million remote workers in the US, representing 22% of the country’s workforce. This is a significant increase from the 16.8 million people working from home during the pre-pandemic times.
- The outlook for remote work remains strong. Managers estimate that 22.9% of their workforce will be remote in five years, double the percentage of employees who were working remote full-time before the pandemic.
- Employers may start hiring more freelancers as these are the workers who are most used to the WFH setup. Before the pandemic, only 16.6% of the companies with freelancers operated remotely. However, this number increased significantly by 52.1% after the pandemic hit.
Benefits of WFH Setup
In the past two years, you may have heard of some concerns with the WFH setup, leading to the assumption that it is not conducive to productivity. However, contrary to these popular beliefs, remote work has actually been beneficial for many employees and employers. In fact, besides flexibility, productivity is the other main perk WFH provides.
So to give you a better idea of why WFH is taking over the business landscape, check out these numbers highlighting the benefits this model has to offer:
Commute Time Savings
Based on a study done by Upwork, employees who shifted to remote work due to COVID-19 saved an average of 49.6 minutes in commute time. The benefits are even more evident for workers living in some of the largest cities since their commute time can take as long as 83.6 minutes. To add to this, they no longer have to worry about getting stuck in traffic, which can be a huge frustration for many office workers.
Real Estate Savings
One significant financial benefit of the WFH setup comes from no longer having to lease offices anymore. Aside from eliminating high leasing costs, you also get to avoid utility bills, cleaning services, and furniture and supplies expenses. According to Global Workplace Analytics, companies can save around $10,000 per employee per year by going full-time remote.
The real estate savings are undoubtedly huge, which explains why many startups and small businesses gravitate towards remote teams. To try to get the best of both worlds, some opt for flexible offices like coworking spaces to give their employees a productive place where they can work.
Increased Employee Productivity
Productivity has long been one of the debatable benefits of working from home, but statistics show that this setup can indeed increase your team’s productivity. For instance, one study says that approximately 20% of the workdays will be remote in the post-pandemic US, which can boost productivity by 5%.
Similarly, Great Place to Work did a study comparing employee productivity from March to August 2020 and the same period in 2019. Results showed higher productivity ranging from 76% to 87% in 2020—when companies shifted to remote work—compared to 73% to 76% in 2019.
Of course, it is worth noting that the productivity metrics may vary per company. This is why it is extremely important to take extra measures to engage with your employees and prevent them from burning out while at home.
Wider Talent Pool
Remote work gives employers access to a broader talent pool since they do not need to consider their candidates’ physical location anymore. They can easily hire someone from a different suburb, city, or even country, which also gives job applicants more chances to find work.
More than this, reducing geographical barriers also promotes inclusivity as disabled workers will also have equal access to work opportunities. This helps more companies work towards diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI), an increasingly important focus in the workplace.
Aside from having more candidates to choose from for hiring, employers have also benefitted from increased retention rates since transitioning into remote work. Global Workplace Analytics noted that 95% of employers said that remote work has a large impact on retention, which saves them the trouble of hiring and training new employees repeatedly.
There are many possible reasons why WFH may improve retention. For one, workers have added flexibility since the setup is not as rigid as the traditional office. Second, they get to avoid wasting time and money from long commutes. And finally, remote workers have been found to be happier, which ultimately increases their chances of staying with a company.
Building off the earlier point, remote work has been observed to increase happiness levels among workers. Microsoft and YouGov did a survey on 4,000 UK workers and found that 56% of them were happier while working from home. However, it is worth noting that this positive outcome did not necessarily result in a better perception of their work.
The same survey found that remote workers felt like they had to work longer hours while others thought they could not take as many breaks as before. Thus, companies also need to adjust how they design the workflow to ensure that their employees can still maintain a proper work-life balance. Overall, the numbers show they are happier when working remotely, so they need to make sure this also translates to how they view work.
Working from home has many environmental benefits, from reduced paper and plastic usage to fewer vehicle emissions. According to Alliance Virtual Offices, Xerox’s workers saved around 92 million miles of driving, translating to 41,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Additionally, carbon reduction emissions and waste production decreased by 15% and 67%, respectively, in the US in 2020 due to the increase in companies working from home.
How Office Space will Change in the Future
Moving forward, you can expect more companies to transition to it permanently or even incorporate it into their working model. One of the biggest questions about this development is whether physical offices will still be relevant.
While there is no question that remote work is here to stay, there is no denying the benefit that physical offices bring. Some still work better in the office environment, while others miss the interactions that co-workers have with each other. Based on the 2021 Owl Labs report, 78% of employees feel more included when they work in the office.
Given this, it will be critical for employers to reimagine their workspaces to ensure that employees can work effectively, regardless of their location. For example, you can explore shared office spaces to give your team a more productive workplace without taking away the flexibility. Or you can also use these as meeting rooms and collaboration spaces.
Tips to Maximize the Benefits of WFH
While WFH certainly offers benefits to many employees and employers, it also has its fair share of challenges. Some find it challenging to work amid all the distractions at home, while others feel lonely and isolated. So to make the transition and experience better for your team, here are tips you can use to support them and maximize the benefits of the WFH setup.
Check up on your employees more often
Since you are unable to see your employees physically, it helps to check up on them more frequently now. This can be something as simple as dropping a message or more personal like scheduling a video call to ask them how they are doing and whether they need help anywhere. Of course, avoid overdoing it, but try to be more attentive to your team, given the physical distance.
Support health and wellness
Not all employees have transitioned into remote work easily, so this is where employers come in. Remember to encourage your team to practise self-care and incorporate wellness activities into their daily routine. For example, you can enforce the habit of taking regular mindfulness breaks for them to pause and rest. This way, they can avoid getting burnt out.
Likewise, you should also make your employees aware of their health benefits and encourage them to use these. Overall, try to think of new initiatives, programs, and perks that can help your team transition into the WFH setup more smoothly.
Provide training opportunities
The physical distance should not deter you from giving your employees the chance to learn new skills, build their capabilities, and advance their careers. Job applicants often look for these when choosing an employer, so you want to make sure they still get such opportunities despite the current situation. To do this, you can offer virtual training internally or sponsor external initiatives.
As the statistics show, WFH is part of the new normal and is not going anywhere, so it’ll be critical to boost your online marketing efforts more than ever. This setup brings many benefits to the table, ranging from productivity to sustainability to significant savings for employers. That said, it also comes with challenges that companies need to navigate to maximize the benefits of remote work.