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More companies are shifting to permanent remote work. Will this be the new normal?

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Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, announced last year that the company would offer employees the option of working from home for the long term. When sharing an update to their new remote work policy, Facebook stated that the way people work is more important than where they work. This statement is different from what Zuckerberg announced in 2020 when he said only senior and experienced employees could request to work from home permanently. Facebook’s CEO showed optimism towards remote work, saying he believes this is a viable option nowadays, considering all the tech advancements such as virtual reality and remote video presence.

Zuckerberg isn’t the only one who embraced remote work as a permanent option. In late June, Jeremy Stoppelmen, the CEO of Yelp, announced that the company would go fully remote. Stoppelmen rejected the hybrid work model, saying it is ‘the worst of both worlds. Yelp’s CEO has decided to transition to a ‘hoteling’ model that involves renting desks for a day. According to one of Stoppelmen’s blog posts, the company has realised its future of work is remote. Companies like Spotify, Airbnb and Lyft have also followed, enshrining permanent remote work setups. Some enterprises, like Yelp, have completely closed their offices too. In April, PayPal closed its San Francisco office, while in May, TaskRabbit shuttered its presence in all its office locations.

This new model has its perks, mainly because it meets workers’ desires to stay at home in the long term. According to a study from Talent Tech Outlook, 64% of employees are less stressed and more productive when working from home. The study also revealed that more than 80% of HR managers have a difficult time finding candidates who are willing to work full-time at the office. The tech workforce has found remote work an excellent opportunity that gives them productivity and freedom. Besides freedom, remote work also helps employees save costs. However, experts believe this new way of working carries risks. After all, there’s no guarantee that it will work. The future is uncertain, and no one can predict what will happen next.

Many companies have decided to embrace a fully remote model due to the complexities of hybrid work. Frances Milliken, a management professor at NY University, says that’ hybrid work is really hard to manage’. As employees have started returning to offices, the downsides of the hybrid model have gradually become more evident. Companies have noticed many shortcomings, like awkward Zoom calls, logistical headaches ensuring workers are in the office at the right time and emotional exhaustion for employees. The hybrid model has been a pain not only for companies but for workers too, as they had experienced whiplash after two years of remote work when they had a lot of autonomy.

This autonomy is valuable for many employees; thus, they don’t want to lose it. Companies know this very well, so embracing remote work fully may be a tactic to boost worker engagement. This is understandable since the data shows a clear desire for remote work. For Yelp, 86% of individuals said in a survey that they preferred to work mostly remotely; only 1% of respondents mentioned they are currently working from their office. Companies that adopt this new model only follow the numbers, ensuring employees won’t leave for other remote opportunities. This shift to remote work also expands talent pools, as workers aren’t limited anymore to searching only particular metropolitan areas that are close to an office. Recruiters have the opportunity to find talent from around the globe. As Yelp’s CEO said, remote work has led to a ‘strong surge in candidate applications’ for the company. Indeed, working remotely allows you to perform tasks from anywhere in the world. And this can benefit businesses and employees equally. Let’s take virtual assistants as an example. Their job allows them to meet companies’ needs regardless of their location, as long as they are skilled and can help the business thrive. As a CEO, you can hire a virtual assistant in the UK and achieve a better work-life balance.

Some experts say there’s a good chance more companies will embrace full remote work. However, it’s unclear how many companies are prepared for the risks this new model involves. It could work for some industries that don’t require intensive collaboration and where employees can work independently. But remote work consists of a culture that not every company aspires to. There is data that shows the benefits of in-person work, and it’s always good to have the option to go to a physical space, namely the office. Remote work may seem like the best way for employees to feel physically and mentally well, but the reality is far more complicated. Some people experience increased feelings of loneliness as they no longer interact with colleagues in a physical setting. But some find remote work highly convenient, as it gives them flexibility and more time for recreation or family activities.

While remote work has improved some workers’ well-being, it has negatively impacted others. After all, personal preferences and circumstances are the factors that determine whether remote work is beneficial or not.  While remote work expands a company’s talent pool, it may also alienate potential talent who doesn’t enjoy working from home for different reasons, like loneliness or distractions such as roommates or kids. In some circumstances, remote work can lead to decreased productivity because some individuals don’t have a space in their home that they can dedicate to work only. For instance, someone living in a small apartment may not be able to invest in a bigger place that provides a separate office.

Experts also say this new model is challenging for relationship-building and onboarding. Going fully remote could impact newcomers, a pronounced issue for young Gen Z employees. One thing is for sure: this transition is a significant one; therefore, it’s impossible to predict what will happen next. So, whether remote work will become the new normal or not is a question no one can give a concrete answer to – it remains to be seen how these changes will impact the workforce and how widespread this model will become.