Tech analyst Gartner has found nearly a quarter of companies plan to shift at least 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions as a direct result of COVID-19.
Skeptical business leaders have discovered their people can work productively from the kitchen table, that digital tools aren’t so difficult to use, and that live-stream events and online meetings can cut down unnecessary travel, time, costs and carbon miles.
We’ve known this for decades. One meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology back in 2007, found that people’s relationships with colleagues generally only suffered if they worked remotely three or more days each week. Another, published more recently in the Journal of Business Psychology, found those with highly complex jobs requiring concentration performed better when the distractions of the office were eliminated.
After years of ignoring the evidence, companies are now allowing people to experiment with what works for them, and what doesn’t. People are discovering they can write reports better from home but conduct performance reviews better in the office, for instance.
When people return to the office, armed with the evidence from this experiment, they won’t want to slide back into their old seat. Expect to see more employees want to work half their days at home. And the other half? They’ll want space for collaborative and creative work – and they will need to be with the right people to do that type of work. By using technology to link space use with other factors, such as skills, projects, teams or personal interests, we can create clusters of people with complementary profiles to foster collaboration, productivity and engagement.