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The Remote Work Revolution is Here | SignalWire

The Remote Work Revolution is Here

In a post-COVID world, what’s going to happen to all those office jobs that went remote last year? In mid-2021, as vaccines roll out across the globe, more and more companies are having to grapple with this question. It’s estimated there’s been an 87% increase in remote work from pre-pandemic levels. Now that more workers than ever have had a taste of what it means to work remotely, will they give it up without a fight? Will they even have to?

The FreeSWITCH project and SignalWire have been staffed with fully remote employees since the beginning. For tech jobs in particular, this isn’t as uncommon as it is in some other fields. And those that work in tech love their remote jobs – recently, in a survey by Hackajob, 86% of tech professionals disclosed they never want to go back to the office full-time. Many employees are open to the idea of a hybrid work environment, where they might go to the office a few days a week, but not being able to work from home at all is becoming a huge deal breaker as the world slowly opens back up.

The benefits of working remotely are undeniable, for employees and employers alike. Many surveys and polls have been conducted over the past year to provide some data and clarity on the situation. Certainly, COVID being the driving force of working remotely complicated things a little bit – being forced to stay at home in unusual situations, stuck with rowdy children or not being able to leave or see another person for days at a time, aren’t situations that accurately represent the typical state of the world or working remotely.

In spite of these challenges, working remotely has been viewed positively by most who have tried it. And many benefits were provided to workers without losing productivity! In a survey by Mercer, 94% of employers said productivity was the same or higher than before the pandemic. As many as 30% of workers believe that they’re even more productive working from home than in an office. And is this really surprising? Remote workers have no commute, less or no small office talk, and more time for family and exercise during the day, leading to a higher quality of life and better work-life balance. A survey report by Owl Labs showed that remote workers are 22% happier than workers always on site in an office. And why wouldn’t a less exhausted, happier employee be more productive and enthusiastic about work?

This same survey by Owl Labs collected a few snippets of data to highlight the benefits of remote work. Employees save both time and money leaving the traditional commute behind: an average of 40 minutes per day, and an estimated $6000 per year. On top of that, 20-25% of companies are paying at least part of the cost for equipment and furniture. And monetary benefits extend to employers too! It’s estimated that companies can save up to $11,000 per year per employee when ditching the office from a combination of reduced office costs, increased worker productivity, and less turnover. Not to mention attracting top talent – 59% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to choose an employer that offered remote work over one that did not.

When talking about worker benefits from working remotely, it’s impossible not to zoom in on the lack of commute a little bit more closely. It is consistently listed as being the best quality of remote work, far ahead of factors like flexible childcare, hanging out with pets during the day or wearing sweatpants to meetings. In the U.S. in particular, 2019 time spent stuck in traffic was as much as 70-120 hours per year for the typical commuter – a number that dropped to a national average of 23 hours in 2020. Collectively, people saved 3.4 billion hours in commute time, according to a report by Automotive News. The benefits extend beyond individual workers to the planet as a whole when 28% of greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and 86% of U.S. workers drive a private vehicle. When time spent on the road is cut significantly, a positive impact on the environment is the direct result.

All these benefits are clearly no small thing. They upgrade quality of life in almost every way imaginable, and employees are prepared to quit instead of giving them up. A Bloomberg poll asserts that 39% of workers would quit before going back to the office. And that number rises to 49% for Gen-Z and Millennials. Remote work is so desirable it even undercuts monetary considerations – 23% of those surveyed said they would take a 10% pay cut in order to keep working remotely permanently.

Some executives, however, are pushing the importance of working in person, claiming remote work diminishes collaboration and company culture. As many as 29% of executives surveyed by PwC believe at least 3 days per week in the office are required to maintain company culture, and 21% believe 5 full days are needed. The number that believe no days at all are necessary was a measly 5%. 44% of companies still don’t allow remote work, and a mere 16% of companies hire remote-only workers. So will companies be able to keep up with worker demand for more remote jobs?

It’s difficult to know where this is all heading; at the moment, less than 30% of workers are back in the office. In spite of this, it’s been estimated the percentage of employees working remotely full time could nearly double in 2021 from last year. And none of this is even to mention that many employees still have concerns about unvaccinated colleagues and COVID precautions. Let’s not forget that though things are getting better in some places, the pandemic rages on. But pandemic or not, if everyone is saving money and time, is happier and more productive, why shouldn’t we embrace working remotely as a common fact of modern life?