For the past three months, millions of companies have been working entirely remotely, having been pushed into a remote capacity due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Some were able to adjust very quickly, while others had to adopt new technologies to enable workers to be productive.
Now that governments are starting to slowly life restrictions and companies are able to return to their offices, what does that mean for the future of the workplace? In the short term, it’s clear that businesses will have to implement new capacity, distancing, monitoring, and cleaning protocols, which will certainly keep many people working from home.
We know that a majority of workers have indicated a desire to work remotely more on a permanent basis. We also know that many companies have already announced expanded, permanent WFH policies, including Twitter, Facebook, Dell, Nationwide, and many more.
A recent study by Xerox, though, shows that most companies will be bringing employees back to offices, with 82% of the workforces in the 600 businesses (with more than 500 employees) surveyed expected back within 12-18 months. That, of course, is still a long time away, and sentiments could change between then and now, especially as businesses invest in more and better technologies to support remote workers.
It’s likely the challenges companies and their employees faced over the past three months is driving the high return-to-office rates, as 72% indicated they were not fully prepared from the technology perspective for the near-immediate transition.
However, there is also a renewed sense of confidence in remote working, evidenced by 58% of companies planning on changing their WFM policies within the next year as they become better equipped to support hybrid workforces.
Not surprisingly, cloud-based solutions lead the way, followed by remote IT and collaboration software. In all, 56% of companies say they will be allocating more of their budgets towards technology as a direct result of the pandemic (66% in Germany and 65% in the U.S.).
The additional investment is likely a two-fold strategy. First, it reflects an increased confidence in remote working indicated my most companies, including 86% of U.S. companies, 80% of German companies, and 77% of Canadian companies. It also probably is an effort to prevent future disruptions, whether from a major second wave of COVID-19, future pandemics, strategic changes, or any other shorter term disruptions.
Exactly how companies will revise their workforce strategies to include full-time remote employees and hybrid workers remains to be seen. But, the study supports the anecdotal evidence that remote work will be a permanent part of work cultures even after this pandemic subsides.
Even though 82% of workers are anticipated to go back to their offices within 18 months, it’s very reasonable to think many of them will become hybrid workers and split time between home and office. The additional benefit is many companies will then be able to reduce their physical footprint and the overhead that comes with that space.