With 62% of employed Americans working from home due to the pandemic, remote work has been a huge topic of conversation when it comes to the future of work. #workfromhome has been trending since March and remote work has been dubbed as the “new normal” in (what it feels like) every news article I read. And let’s be honest, we’ve also all been talking about joining our virtual meetings in our dress shirts and underwear.

So, does this mean remote work is here to stay? Let’s explore company and professional perceptions towards remote work and what this means for the future of work.

Company perceptions

Companies who were skeptical about remote work are now believers. Through the pandemic, they discovered that, well, it turns out many people can work from home productively (often even more so). Some studies show that working from home can increase productivity by up to 47%.

Additionally, companies realized that they could access a larger pool of qualified talent from all over the globe, they saw a reduction in absenteeism, better retention and saved on overhead expenses such as real estate, equipment and supply when going virtual. Global Workplace Analytics reports that they can save on average $11,000 per part-time role converted from physical to virtual.

Professional perceptions

Most professionals are enjoying this new lifestyle and are hoping that the option to work remotely will continue. 55% of remote workers would be likely to look for another job if they were no longer allowed to work remotely.

We’ve seen that remote work and more flexible work improves mental health and increases work-life balance. Professionals are also saving, on average, 54 minutes commuting to the office. This extra time allows them to accomplish chores around the house or take a virtual yoga class, for example. Contrary to old beliefs, there is less time spent in meetings and fewer distractions when working from home. Unless, of course, you have kiddos running around the house, or your new puppy is peeing on your rug.

So, now that we’ve proven that remote work can be productive, companies are more compelled to offer remote work as an option when hiring. It’s also going to be a new expectation for professionals when seeking out new roles. A recent survey reveals that 77% of workers say they would like to continue to work remotely, at least once a week after the pandemic.

Plus, companies are raking in the dough with professionals reporting greater productivity and higher job satisfaction. So, it’s a no brainer for companies to offer more remote work options in the future.

3. Is the Hybrid Model the new “new normal”?

Since remote work is a win-win for both companies and professionals, is this truly our future reality? Yes, but it’s not going to be 100% remote. While some companies might make the full remote leap (such as Shopify going all-in with remote work), most companies are looking to the future with a Hybrid Model approach to remote work. A hybrid model combines remote and on-site workers and can also be organized such that employees split remote and office time – where some employees are in the office, while others work from home or remotely.

A BCG’s recent workplace of the Future employer survey found that companies expect about 40% of their team to follow a remote-working model in the future. The company said that its employees worked an estimated 25% of their time remotely before the pandemic, and it believes that this figure could rise to approximately 50% or more. Companies will essentially move forward with a more flexible approach to work, allowing their employees to work remotely more often than in the past.

Besides splitting employee office time, the hybrid model will also mean that companies will likely keep their employee team small and outsource more freelance professionals on a “per need” basis.

With hybrid teams, we’ll see smaller office spaces or meeting room rentals and companies hiring more remote freelance professionals.

Mark Barrenechea, OpenText (Over 12,000 employees) CEO and CTO recently said that OpenText will not reopen approximately 50% of their offices and will institute a hybrid model with those employees continuing to work from home post-pandemic.

Of course, this will differ based on the type of career or business. But, we’re even seeing that services that we’re mostly offered only in person are now open to the idea of hybrid virtual models as well. For example, more doctors appointments will continue with a hybrid model where some appointments will be carried out virtually and some in-person.

Conclusion

The pandemic has broken beliefs and technological barriers that prevented remote work in the past and set in motion a structural shift.

The future of work will be more remote, and most companies will adopt a hybrid model. It will consist of a much more flexible workplace, hybrid teams and shared office space. Employees will have more freedom in choosing if or when they want to work remotely. Office real estate will become much smaller and companies will outsource freelance professionals to fill skill gaps and integrate more remote talent to their teams.