Before the pandemic, businesses primarily operated with an in-person workforce that showed up to the office, attended in-person meetings, and traveled when necessary. While remote work was steadily increasing over time, only a small percentage of employees worked remotely prior to 2020.
However, according to Global Workplace Analytics, 80% of employees wanted to work from home at least some of the time and over a third would have taken a pay cut in exchange for working from home before COVID-19. Clearly, the desire from employees was there although the willingness to accommodate it by employers largely wasn’t. Some employers did consider and test such work accommodations, but remote work was still only gradually adopted.
Then came the pandemic and there was no other option available. Companies across the board had to scramble to make remote work happen and since then? Employers and employees alike have seen the benefits and possibilities of a remote workforce.
New Operating Models
The post-pandemic business model looks very different than the pre-pandemic ones. By 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely, an 87% increase from pre-pandemic levels, according to Upwork’s “Future of Workforce Pulse Report.” As remote work continues to be more and more greatly embraced, there will be three types of roles:
- In person-only – This includes retailers, manufacturers, and other businesses that require people onsite physically to do the work.
- Hybrid – This includes senior executives, as well as those in human resources and other departments that require at least some level of presence in-person.
- Remote-only – This includes accounting teams, sales teams, and marketing; many roles with functions that can be conducted from home and/or via virtual meetings instead of in the office.
A remote workforce carries with it myriad advantages for all parties involved, but it benefits employers in particular in two primary ways:
- Expanded Talent Acquisition
First, companies can far more easily hire outside of their physical regions, as well as significantly expand their candidate pools. It’s a win-win as employees can live and work in more affordable or desirable areas of the country, while employers aren’t restricted to choosing talent proximal to them.
Furthermore, employees are becoming increasingly accustomed to flexible work environments, expedited even more by working at home during COVID-19. Many individuals, then, are actively seeking organizations that are friendly to remote options. Offering these possibilities can help companies attract top talent and satisfy existing employees.
- Reduced Expenses
Of course, remote work helps with companies’ bottom lines as well. They can adjust salaries to align with the cost-of-living standards in markets outside of their home territory. For example, if a company is based in San Francisco or New York, but hires remote workers living in less expensive cities or towns, they may be able to negotiate salaries that are comparable to the employees’ market and standard of living, but still remain industry competitive.
Organizations that maintain a work-from-home workforce will not need to spend as much on office space and overhead, as they would otherwise. Even those implementing a hybrid work model can save on space, air conditioning and other expenses that grow the more people need to be in an office.
Companies Paving the Way
Salesforce is a prime example of a company that has declared the “9 to 5 workday is dead” and is offering employees the option to choose how they work based on their job role and whether they need to be in the office or not. This move shows the company can offer flexibility while setting a standard for other businesses to follow.
Other companies are choosing to upend their former work requirements, and move forward with remote work as their dominant business model. For example, Dropbox will now let all employees work from home permanently, with the option to drop by remaining offices only if and when they wish. Here are some additional noteworthy companies that have similarly chosen to keep the majority of their workforce remote indefinitely (see the full list here).
Still, other companies, like HubSpot, are giving their employees a choice in the matter. The inbound marketing leader decided to give its workers three options, ranging from working at home full-time to being in the office for one to two days per week to being in the office three or more days per week.
However, you look at it, one takeaway is clear: A partially remote workforce will continue indefinitely and should be seen as a positive business trend. By freeing up access to top talent, regardless of geography, and appealing to today’s workforce that desires flexibility, remote work serves employers and employees. It also can save companies money, in salaries and overhead, and ultimately boost profitability. While all three operating models listed here will surely be used to some extent by organizations in the future, there’s little doubt that a primarily remote workforce will eventually top them all.