Two years ago, we were all just learning how our jobs could convert to a remote structure. Employers scrambled to reverse-engineer infrastructure that could support their businesses. Employees picked up new technological tools and learned how to adapt their environments to be conducive to both work and home life — and the inevitable interruption of whining toddlers or barking dogs.
As an unintended mass sociological experiment, the results were mixed, but seemed mostly positive. Many people found a new work-life balance, reprioritizing their personal lives while still accomplishing their job functions. Others made more radical life changes, bouncing to new careers or opting out entirely. The latter led to what many are calling, “The Great Resignation,” an ongoing phenomenon that has seen unprecedented numbers of employees leave their careers. Critics cite a shift in motivation to work, while others see it as a worker-based movement to improve working conditions and wages.
As we enter a post-COVID reality, many people in the workforce are seeking greater flexibility in their jobs. Employers seem to be responding by offering flexible schedules and setups, benefits that can, to the right potential employee, be just as enticing as higher wages. Global Workplace Analytics found that 37% of employees polled would take a 10% pay cut if it enabled them to work remotely.
Of course, remote work isn’t all loungewear and snacks. It has created a blurry line for many, lacking the benefit of a finite end to the day. Since the trend has continued long enough to engage some proper studies, there is now data to suggest that remote work, while beneficial in many ways, often calculates to longer hours for employees and reduced creative engagement, or what Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, calls the “hybrid work paradox.” That is to say, that while we’re all comfortable, well-fed, and successful in accomplishing our to-do lists, we’re not being challenged in the same way we would working in person with a team.
While two years is hardly enough time for experts to develop any kind of solution to this paradox, it is enough time to have gathered some information and to initiate some experimental changes. Many companies are tinkering with hybrid scenarios, allowing employees to work remotely part of the time, but requiring attendance for in-person meetings and team-building sessions. So far, the move seems to be working. Beyond the employee satisfaction metric, other benefits to hybrid work are becoming apparent. Of course, the initial push for remote work was instigated by protective health measures related
to COVID. The health benefits of remote and hybrid work remain relevant on a global scale, but also translate into individual health benefits, with remote workers having more flexibility to work out. After all, the dog doesn’t care if we’re wrapping up a project in sweaty running clothes.
Hybrid scenarios have also led to a drop in commuter traffic, which translates to environmental benefits on the global level. If you’re an employee, it means a more relaxing start to the day and less sticker shock at the gas pump. For employers, it means workers typically are adding minutes, or even hours, to their workdays. It’s also led to another ‘great,’ the “Great Reshuffling”, which explains the movement of people to new homes and in many cases, entirely new regions. No longer tethered to a necessity for work proximity, Americans have been on the move in the last two years, relocating to warmer climates and larger homes that can accommodate home offices. As a result, home prices have jumped dramatically.
In just two years, our world has changed, and much of it is owed to how we spend those eight important hours a day. While hybrid work structures continue to be studied and to respond and evolve, it’s safe to assume that, in some capacity, the construct is here to stay. That simple fact will continue to affect our home lives, our physical health, our patterns of movement, our spending habits, and yes, our jobs. While the economists and CEOs of the world continue to sort it all out, may the rest of us continue to enjoy a couple days a week working in yoga pants and petting the dog.