As COVID-19 vaccines become more available, society is slowly shifting back to pre-pandemic life. Stay-at-home orders have been lifted, stores are opening back up, children are ready to go back to school, and offices are expecting their employees back at work. This return to normalcy is sparking a question among employees and their bosses: Will COVID-19 permanently change the way we work?
After more than a year of many employees working from home, some people are ready to return to the office, while others would prefer to stay in a remote environment. Businesses are facing the difficult decision of choosing whether to have all employees return to the office or to shift the way business is done to keep employees happy.
Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, told NewJersey101.5 that a number of businesses learned communicating and working remotely can be efficient. He expects many businesses to adopt a hybrid work model moving forward.
“There may be days where it’s easier to stay home if you have nothing pressing at the office, or nobody to see or meet, and then working from home becomes a very viable option,” Bracken said.
Solely working remotely could create various pros and cons for both workers and employers, however.
“The broad trend seems to be that people want to go back to the office, but they also want to remain working from home at least two or three days a week,” Barbara Larson, executive professor of management at Northeastern University, told [email protected].
A 2021 survey from accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers indicates that less than 20% of executives expect to return to pre-pandemic work schedules. This could mean that many American workers will see COVID permanently change the way they work.
This move could benefit employers as well as their employees. Employers could save on real estate costs by moving to smaller office spaces, and employees could move out of expensive urban areas if they’re only commuting a few days a week, Larson said.
For some employers, offering a “work from anywhere” position can help recruit employees who may be considering different companies. For more collaborative, innovative work cultures, however, a remote work environment simply may not be feasible.
Working from home also can’t take the place of face-to-face networking, according to Bracken.
“People do miss that, so I think that will still be a major part of how business is conducted when the pandemic is over,” he said. “People are just craving to have the ability to get together, talk with people, and re-hash what’s been happening.”