The world of work is always changing, but 2020 has brought unimaginable shifts in where and how many of us do our jobs. Work from home statistics are helping us understand the magnitude of this transformation. For example, new data shows that remote work has grown by more than 160% since 2005, and the number of people who work at least partially remotely continues to rise each year.
This trend is being seen in almost every industry, from tech companies to small businesses. Although only 8% of employees worked remotely full-time prior to COVID-19, this number quadrupled to 35% by May 2020. This is a remarkable shift, especially since only 7% of businesses allowed remote work before the pandemic started.
As more people embrace working from home, it’s clear that this trend is here to stay — and likely to become even more prominent in the years ahead. The same study found that 70% of employers plan to use remote work technologies in the future, and an even greater percentage of people are interested in continuing to work from home.
These changes will have a profound impact on how companies operate and how employees manage their lives. For instance, traditional nine-to-five office hours may become a thing of the past as more companies experiment with flexible scheduling options. Moreover, remote work also has the potential to benefit the environment by reducing emissions caused by commuting and increasing productivity.
Starting the day: sleeping in, saving money and working harder
For workers who were in the office pre-pandemic, morning routines are now very different. Gone are the days of dressing for the office, sitting in traffic and chatting with colleagues while strolling into the building.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become the norm for many individuals, providing them with unexpected opportunities to utilise their time more wisely. A significant number of people have been taking advantage of the situation by improving their overall well-being. Nearly half of remote workers have reported getting more sleep, while 35% have wisely invested their extra time in daily exercise, recognizing the positive impact on productivity, energy, and health.
Working from home has also allowed individuals to spend more quality time with their families. With the morning rush and daily commute eliminated, approximately one-third of respondents have been able to enjoy more moments with their children and significant others, fostering stronger bonds and creating lasting memories.
Interestingly, despite the cost savings associated with remote work, such as reduced expenses on gas, parking, and daily meals, many employees surprisingly find themselves missing their daily commutes. Fifty percent of workers admit to missing the time spent travelling to and from work, which previously served as a clear transition between their home and work lives. Commuting, for two-thirds of respondents, played an essential role in setting boundaries and distinguishing work time from personal time.
In light of the shift to remote work, employees have had to adapt by creating designated home offices to maintain productivity and focus. Nearly 90% of remote workers have set up a dedicated workspace, with almost half transforming spare rooms or carving out workstations in various parts of their homes. The importance of a proper home workspace has become evident, as employees without a designated area for work are 140% more likely to experience a decline in their remote work performance. Employers who have recognized this and provided financial aid for home office expenses have seen significant returns in terms of employee productivity and satisfaction.
Ultimately, the shift to remote work has brought about numerous changes and challenges. While many have embraced the positive aspects of remote work, such as better sleep, family time, and cost savings, others have realised the value of the daily commute for its role in establishing routine and keeping up with important news. As remote work continues to evolve, both employees and employers are learning valuable lessons about work-life balance, workspace requirements, and the undeniable impact of support in navigating these new circumstances.
Midday meals and more: parents struggle to balance work and virtual school
In the face of changing work days, 73% of individuals still maintain daily routines and take breaks for meals. With many parents juggling remote work and virtual school for their kids (56%), lunchtime becomes an opportunity for family connection. However, balancing work and online learning is especially challenging for 70% of parents, with mothers bearing the educational brunt.
Concerns about the long-term impact lead 72% of parents to consider reducing work hours, and 42% even contemplate quitting their jobs. To support working families during these challenging times, employers can offer flexible schedules, reduced workloads, or temporary leave.
While productivity may not solely drive the need for in-office work, social and emotional benefits play a significant role. Data shows that 73% of workers miss casual office chats, and 74% find it more difficult to connect with peers while working from home. Maintaining relationships with managers has also proven harder for 68% of respondents. Prioritising fun activities like virtual coffee breaks, walk-and-talks, and happy hours can nurture relationships and prevent burnout, ultimately improving overall wellbeing and employee performance.
At the end of the day, remote work is working well
The pandemic has shattered the notion that true work only happens in the office. Reflecting on their time at home, around 80% of remote employees have adjusted well, with 63% finding the transition easier than expected. While challenges like managing kids at home and coping with stress exist, employees have adapted their routines to meet current demands.
These unique challenges are specific to the pandemic, implying that remote work outside of this context would likely appear different. Despite uncertainties about the post-COVID future, it’s crucial to continue supporting remote work’s success. Nurturing relationships, promoting employee well-being, and offering flexibility are key to maintaining productive teams. Managers should lead by example, understanding that everyone is navigating this together.
The shift to virtual work in 2020 has taught a significant lesson: remote work can be successful for employers and even better for employees under less stressful conditions. While the pandemic will eventually pass, the future of work will undoubtedly be forever changed.
As the world continues to adjust to this new normal, employers and employees must remember the important lessons learned during this unprecedented time. Employees should prioritise their health and wellbeing by creating a positive home workspace environment and taking time to connect with their families, while employers should foster relationships with employees through more virtual social activities and offer flexible schedules for a better work-life balance. Remote work might not always be easy, but it can be successful with the right support and dedication.
In the end, remote work is working well for many individuals despite the challenges associated with this shift. While some may continue to miss their daily commutes or in-person interactions, overall, remote workers are adjusting better than expected and finding ways to balance their work and personal lives. By understanding these lessons, both employees and employers can continue to embrace remote work and make the most of this new normal.