Experts predict a remote work force is a permanent fixture in the coming years.
While some companies continue to thumb their noses at The Great Resignation and insist that employees come back into the office, data scientists at Ladders insist that the writing is on the wall. Remote work is here to stay. According to their projections, 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and remote opportunities will continue to increase through 2023. Researchers from Ladders have been carefully tracking remote work availability from North America’s largest 50,000 employers since the pandemic began. Remote opportunities leapt from under 4% of all high paying jobs before the pandemic to about 9% at the end of 2020, and to more than 15% today. “This change in working arrangements is impossible to overhype. As big as it is, it’s even bigger than people think,” said Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella, who says it’s the largest societal change in America since the end of World War II. “Hiring practices typically move at a glacial pace, but the pandemic turned up the heat so we’re seeing a rapid flood of change in this space. It’s really rather amazing.”
As the workplace headed into 2022—the third year of the pandemic—the rise of job burnout jumped to an all-time high. The American Psychological Association’s Work and Well-Being survey found that 79% of the 1,501 employees experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey. Three in five workers said work-related stress caused them to have a lack of interest, motivation and energy at work. A total of 36% had cognitive weariness, 32% emotional exhaustion and 44% physical fatigue—a 38% jump from 2019.
According to the report, issues like the politicization of masks and vaccines and feelings of lack of support from the government and workplaces have caused workers—especially those in public-facing jobs—to become cynical about their jobs and about the public in general. “This kind of cynicism is powerful because it undermines the people’s feelings about the value of their work, which can help motivate them during hard times,” said organizational psychologist, Michael Leiter, honorary professor of organizational psychology at Melbourne’s Deakin University. The report stated that because pandemic-related stressors won’t stop anytime soon, stress-reducing measures should be top of mind for employers and legislators. And Christina Maslach, professor emerita of psychology at University of California, Berkeley added, “As demands increase, organizations need to focus on maintaining balance, taking things off the plate when they add something new. That’s especially important in health care settings where attrition rates are especially high.”
According to the 2021 State of Remote Work Report from Owl Labs, 2021 was the year the world stayed remote, and 90% of the 2,050 full-time remote workers surveyed said they were as productive or more productive working remotely, compared to when they toiled in the office. Another 74% said after the pandemic, working from home is better for their mental health, and 84% reported that working remotely after the pandemic would make them happier, with many even willing to take a pay cut.
A January 2022 survey of 1,000 full-time workers from Ergotron corroborates the Owl Labs study, revealing that as workers have become more acclimated to hybrid and remote office environments since the onset of the pandemic, they are experiencing benefits to their physical and mental well-being. Taken together these two findings indicate that American businesses listen up and look beyond today to build more progressive workplace policies that will help employees thrive. The report concluded that leaders must rethink their workplace culture to be more inclusive of remote and hybrid work—this is the new normal.
Still, several big banks and tech companies have remained resistant to having a permanently remote workforce throughout the pandemic, with one firm referring to the idea as a “temporary aberration.” Companies like Goldman Sachs and Chase have now retreated, joining competitors in announcing flexible work from home policies as the number of Covid-19 cases rise. Ragu Bhargava, CEO at Global Upside, agrees with the latest research that employees will continue to resign in record numbers if companies don’t evolve with the needs of their employees. Ragu suggests that those who still view remote work as temporary or unorthodox—instead of a complete transformation in how we work and continue the “old way of doing things”—risk losing staff and no longer being competitive as the workplace evolves around them.
Ragu Bhargava, CEO at Global Upside
“There’s this clinging narrative of a ‘return to normalcy’ that many employers are holding onto, when in fact, the world of work will never truly return to the way it was before,” Ragu said. “The pandemic revolutionized the workplace and expedited an already growing need for remote workers. The pandemic served as a massive wake-up call, teaching us not only that work was more than capable of being completed from home, but showing the need for flexibility for employees to take control of their own schedules—a necessity for those with long commutes, pricey childcare arrangements and those who simply wanted to spend more time with their families.”
Ragu cites the mind-boggling statistic that 4.5 million people employees voluntarily quit their jobs in November, 2021 alone as evidence that the American workforce is waking up to their collective bargaining power, and hard-nosed employers are getting left behind in the dust. “With The Great Resignation and Covid-19 still playing a role in our day-to-day lives, companies who choose to revert to the ‘old way of doing things’ will risk losing their staff and witness a changing job market that evolves around them, eventually moving on entirely,” Ragu concluded.
Cenedella foresees that the increases in remote working will make a huge societal shift and will impact everyone. It will free employees from being stuck to a large city so Cenedella expects we will continue to see smaller cities and towns grow. Cities that have appealing lifestyle elements but historically lacked access to great professional jobs will see significant growth. Cenedella notes, “Those cities will see an influx of high-earning, well-educated professionals, which will change their school boards, their planning commissions and even the services offered to residents. Remote work at this scale will transform some communities completely.”
Between April and September 2021, more than 24 million American workers quit their jobs according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As we enter the new year Workhuman’s January, 2022 Human Workplace Index insists the decisions employers make will be critical to their team, and 81.5% of workers feel more empowered to hold their leaders accountable for a better workplace in 2022. Over half (56%) said they would only wait 30 to 60 days for employers to make needed changes before they consider leaving.