Employee Relations, HR Management

Is remote work the new normal? – HR Affiliates Blog

Almost since the COVID-19 pandemic started, business owners and employees alike have been wondering, “When do we get back to normal? Will we be working from home forever?” 

Nearly two years later and those questions remain. Some companies have fully returned to the workplace, some have adopted a fully remote policy, and others have chosen a hybrid schedule, with employees in the office 2–3 days per week while working remotely the other days. 

Research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) earlier this spring indicated that 27 percent of employers wanted all employees back onsite once the COVID-19 vaccine was available; 34 percent were unsure about a return date for all employees; 18 percent had no plans to have all employees return; and five percent had not set a date for a return. 

Concerns about maintaining productivity while working remotely faded as management and employees showed that a work-from-home model was workable, if not preferable in some situations. So as restrictions ease and organizations look ahead, we encourage leaders to be intentional while planning what their workplace looks like going forward. Whether it’s everyone back in the office, everyone remote, or a hybrid, now’s the time to be planning. 

Onsite? Remote? Hybrid?

“The research confirms that the post-COVID workplace will be a hybrid onsite/remote work model,” according to Cali Williams Yost, a workplace change strategist, author, speaker and CEO of New York City-based Flex+Strategy Group. “However, there’s a meaningful divide between what HR leaders say they expect the mix of full-time onsite, partially onsite and full-time remote will be and what employees say they want. Closing that gap, aligning expectations and then executing a new flexible way of operating will be the next-stage challenge for organizations.”

Indeed, SHRM polls (www.shrm.org/futurework) reveal that 52 percent of workers in the U.S. would work from home permanently if given the opportunity, and 66 percent would do the same even if herd immunity had been reached through the widespread adoption of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Some leaders recommend that employees return to the office. Mary Moreland is executive vice president of human resources at Abbott, the global health technology company. “It’s critical — for innovation, for personal and professional development, for the workplace culture, and for returning to a sense of normalcy through social interactions,” she said. “From a cultural perspective, we know we’re always stronger when we’re together.”

Whatever model a business chooses, Rachael McCann — senior director of health and benefits at Willis Towers Watson — says it should be a carefully considered decision.  “Employers should invest in a holistic, integrated and sustainable flexible work strategy that works for their business, industry and talent expectations,” she said. “Ultimately, an evolving flexible strategy that is developed and executed across business and HR stakeholders with an emphasis on change management and governance can support well-being, DE&I [diversity, equity and inclusion] and ultimately business performance.”

Full-time remote work has its drawbacks though. Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is SHRM’s president and CEO. “With COVID-19 forcing a leap to remote work in many sectors of our economy, and organizations struggling to determine the best workforce strategies post-pandemic, there’s one fact that can’t be ignored—remote work is not ideal for everyone,” he said. “Remote work can offer benefits, but employers need to take a closer look at whether remote and onsite workers have the same opportunities and whether managers have the tools they need to be effective leaders.” 

For instance, SHRM surveys have revealed:

  • Forty-two percent of supervisors say they sometimes forget about remote workers when assigning tasks. 
  • Thirty-four percent of remote workers say working remotely on a permanent basis would reduce the number of career opportunities available. 
  • Twenty-nine percent of remote workers say they will have fewer developmental opportunities while working remotely. 

“These results raise the question of who’s really winning with remote work,” Taylor said. “HR and business leaders need to answer this question to ensure they are able to attract and retain top talent and build an equitable workplace where everyone has the ability to succeed.” 

Give us a call

For more information about the benefits and drawbacks of remote work, give us a call. We’ll help you decide which model is best for your organization. 





Learn More With Us.

Sign up to stay up to date

Stay informed about HR issues that matter to you with customized news delivered monthly to your inbox. Sign up now and we’ll share the most relevant developments in the world of HR.