Recent data shows that workers are returning to in-office work at a faster pace, with a downward trend in remote work. While the return-to-office trend accelerated for more educated workers, there remains a stark contrast between genders and their ability to balance personal and professional life.
From 2021 to 2022, men spent more time at the workplace while women spent the same amount of time working from home year-over-year. In 2022, more than one quarter of men said they spend at least some of their working time at home, as opposed to the 41% of women who stated they had work-from-home in their job schedule.
The gig economy and remote work schedule may not be as widely accessible to women, especially those with children under age 6, whose role in caregiving may impinge upon job opportunities.
The trend of returning to office was observed at a faster rate for workers with higher education levels. In 2021, 60% of people with at least a bachelor’s degree said they did some of their work from home. In 2022, the share declined to 54% doing some work from home.
While this could be attributed to greater trust in more experienced and well-educated workers, it highlights the challenges faced by those without professional degrees or high levels of education.
Overall, the return to office post-pandemic era seems to be more imminent; nonetheless, this scenario presents additional challenges that will demand creative solutions on navigating everyday life.
The Shift Towards Remote Work is Not Over, Says Experts
Despite the pandemic causing a significant shift towards remote work for people of higher education levels, return-to-office policies and vaccination rollouts have encouraged more individuals to leave their home and return to the office in 2021 and 2022. However, the shift isn’t significant, and experts believe that the shift to remote work is far from over.
According to a Columbia Business School professor, Stephan Meier, the change in the numbers doesn’t show a major shift, as those who opt not to work remotely outweigh those who would instead work from home. He believes that understanding who goes to the office and who chooses not to is essential.
Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University, also believes that the shift towards remote work is not over yet, despite the rate of decline in remote working becoming stagnant. He predicts that the rate of remote work will bottom out next year but will continue to rise after 2025 as remote-work technology, including hardware, software, virtual reality, and augmented reality, advances.
Remote work is here to stay, and as companies continue to improve their remote-work technology, the battle for remote work will remain.
Working from Home: The New Normal that Will Stay
According to a research conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42% of employed individuals worked remotely for at least some amount of time between May and December 2020, illustrating the impact of COVID-19 on daily work life. While there has been a rise in office foot traffic this year, it has been uneven, with average weekly occupancy surpassing 50% for the first time in three months according to an ongoing Kastle Systems gauge. The data also revealed that Tuesdays tend to be the busiest days and Fridays the slowest.
It is evident that the pandemic has completely transformed the traditional office culture. Before COVID-19, only 24% of employees worked from home. This shift has proven that remote work is not only viable but also efficient in many cases. Even with vaccinations ramping up and offices returning to some level of normalcy, businesses are encouraged to adopt a hybrid work setup. This allows them to maximize the benefits of traditional office space while also providing flexibility in terms of remote work options.
While we may see fewer people working remotely next year, this transitional moment is critical in determining how businesses can approach hybrid work effectively. A senior labour economist, Pia M. Orrenius, explains that “it’s a good time to reconceptualize what the office is for. We were in this mindset where the office was where work happened, and home was where we took care of kids. Well, now we know that the office isn’t necessarily the ideal location…”
With the right balance of remote and in-office work, employees and companies will experience increased satisfaction, enhanced efficiency and productivity without sacrificing their personal lives. It’s not necessary for everyone to come in five days a week, and as we continue to redefine our workflow landscape, hybrid work seems to be the way forward.