3 Things to Know About the “Work from Anywhere” MovementJune 24, 2021
Last March, as the COVID-19 pandemic surged, organizations across the country closed offices and required non-essential employees to work from home (WFH): 60% of salaried US workers worked from home after the lockdown, according to UBS. Since then, Facebook, Slack, Zillow, and Shopify have announced WFH policies indefinitely. The pandemic caused a monumental shift in the workplace, forcing companies nationwide and here in Carlsbad to rethink how they work, manage teams, and shape corporate cultures. And professionals discovered that it is possible to live and work from wherever they want, prompting a new Work from Anywhere (WFA) culture.
Following are three trends supporting the WFA movement.
Remote work options lead to happy, productive workers, studies say
Remote work productivity surpassed many businesses’ expectations during the pandemic. According to a survey in USA Today, 54% of respondents ages 18-74 said working from home during the pandemic had a positive effect on their productivity. They cited time saved from commuting (71%), fewer distractions from co-workers (61%), and fewer meetings (39%) as reasons why.
Giving employees freedom to work remotely also gives businesses the ability to hire regardless of geography. It can also lead to increased employee satisfaction—with flexible schedule options and the potential to achieve better work/life balance. About 98% of respondents to Buffer’s 2020 “State of Remote Report” said they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their career, and 97% would recommend it to others.
WFA offers advantages over WFH
Still others have concerns about the effects of WFH on morale, communication, knowledge-sharing, and brainstorming. Respondents in Buffer’s survey rank “collaboration and communication” and “loneliness” each at 20% as top responses to the “biggest struggle with working remote.” USA Today reports about 51% of professionals say they also feel lonely working from home, with 20% feeling lonely all or most of the time.
While many welcome WFH, others say they also need a place to touch down. The phrase “living at work,” describing difficulty to unplug and delineate work from personal life, has emerged during the pandemic.
Parents and others might benefit from having a separate, quiet space to concentrate (12% in the Buffer survey rank “distractions at home” as their biggest WFH struggle). Going to an office enables face-to-face interactions (with a mask, of course) with other professionals to help inspire creativity and stave off loneliness.
For many, a hybrid model of work may offer the best option. WFA gives professionals the flexibility to work when, how, and where they want. This might include working part-time at an office, working remote, or a combination. A recent Cushman & Wakefield report, “The Future of Workplace,” supports the future of work will likely include some combination of WFH, the office, and other places, such as coworking spaces with private offices, shared desks, and conference rooms.
WFA and remote work benefits companies’ bottom lines
Even before the pandemic, the rigid, age-old model of commercial real estate, requiring businesses to commit to three to 10-year leases was likely broken. It’s difficult for businesses to plan five years out or more, not to mention doing so during a pandemic. What is needed are more flexible options similar to apartment rental leases, which allow shorter terms.
Flexible options enable businesses to convert fixed real estate costs to variable models to significantly reduce overhead costs. Coworking spaces allow flexibility for those needing an office away from home with month-to-month, weekly, or even hourly options. And since not every team member will likely need access to a desk every day, companies can further reduce office leasing expenses by reserving a smaller space that can fluctuate with its staffing needs or be rotated among team members. Organizations may decide to lease their own, customized space in a coworking facility, and/or a space for remote employees in buildings closer to where they live. Many coworking buildings also offer cooperative arrangements in the US and abroad for employees to use while traveling.
Virtual office options are another way businesses and individuals can test WFA feasibility. These give individuals that primarily WFH many of the benefits of working in an office—including access to a business street address for meetings or mail, and services like touchless mail handling, a place to meet with clients or colleagues, networking, and private conference room time.
What does the future hold for WFH, WFA, and the future of work in Carlsbad and across the nation? One thing for certain is that the pandemic highlighted where today’s most successful companies and their employees seemed to be headed before the crisis – flexible workplace solutions that are as varied and individual as they are.
By Wolf Bielas, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Downtown Works, a contemporary, hospitality-inspired coworking company with locations in Carlsbad, California, Downtown San Diego’s Little Italy, and Pacific Beach, California. Downtown Works provides flexible workplace solutions including private, furnished offices, indoor and outdoor workspaces, event space, podcast/video studio, and meeting rooms to successful startups, entrepreneurs, artists, and corporate employees. www.downtownworks.com