The world is ushering in the post-pandemic era as millions of U.S. adults continue to get vaccinated every day. Now, the global workforce is trying to make sense of where to go from here.
After swiftly transitioning to remote work operations early in 2020, companies are now trying to once again adjust and figure out what their next step is.
While some leaders are eager to bring employees back into the office, others are open to continue on with remote operations. There’s also the in between — those who want to find common ground between these two ways of working by adopting a hybrid approach.
In its essence, a hybrid work arrangement allows employees of a company to work both in the office and remotely throughout the week. Although there are numerous ways to adopt this type of workplace policy, it essentially provides a happy medium between the two extremes.
Overall, it’s clear that returning to pre-pandemic normalcy isn’t an option for many.
In fact, research from PwC shows that 79% of employees believe that their work from home arrangements have been successful and more productive.
Because of this, people no longer feel the need to stay put where they are. Instead, now that many workers are not geographically tied down by their jobs, many are migrating to suburban areas and mid-sized cities to seek a better quality of life.
And the numbers don’t lie: USPS data shows that 15.9 million people moved in the midst of the pandemic, a 4% increase in total movers.
So what does that mean for the future of the workplace? The answer isn’t necessarily cut and dried.
Mainly, this is dependent upon what employers decide is the best route to take. Some have committed to permanent remote working arrangements, while others understand that workers are eager to come into an office closer to their homes (hence the Work Near Home trend).
If you’re one of the millions that will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future and are thinking about changing up your surroundings, now is a good time to make the plunge.
Cities have long been viewed as the hub for innovation, opportunity, and experience.
So why would anyone want to leave? There are plenty of reasons why the pandemic has spurred such a growth in moving patterns.
Think about this: What happens when high-density areas have to be avoided and you’re stuck attending Zoom meetings in your small apartment with roommates day in and day out?
Perhaps you would feel slightly trapped?
This has left city dwellers wanting more, and many are now looking to other regions to enjoy:
- Lower costs of living
- More space
- Better value (like a larger home for less cost)
- Safer neighborhoods
- Quieter environments
With a worldwide health crisis barring you from enjoying city-like perks, such as being walking distance to business centers and office buildings, it almost feels pointless to live in a city if you are working from home.
And large cities are feeling the brunt: analysis from payroll processor Gusto estimates that these areas lost around 400,000 jobs due to professionals moving away. Simultaneously, employment in small cities and suburbs has increased by 10%.
While this is a big blow to large city economies, this comes as no surprise. The past year has led to increased financial anxiety and the idea of home ownership in big cities seems nearly impossible to achieve.
The suburbs offer a haven away from the limitations of the city. Not only is purchasing a home more attainable, you enjoy an overall lower cost of living that can ease the financial strain that you may have been experiencing lately.
And maybe more importantly, you get a say in where you live and work.
If the past year or so has taught society anything, it’s that having a choice in your environment is not something that should be taken for granted.
With these newly adopted work arrangements, you can move to that town you’ve always wanted to live in, or simply be closer to your loved ones.
This isn’t just beneficial from the point of view of employees — employers may be able to find local talent who are willing to work for “local rates.” Since the cost of living in a suburb or smaller city is lower, people are likely to work for lower wages compared to those in the city.
The Work Near Home Dilemma
While the idea of moving to a new place seems promising and invigorating, it’s important for you to consider the downsides of smaller town living that might come as a difficult adjustment if you’re a city dweller.
For instance, traveling in the suburbs usually means needing a car. Since many places in the suburbs aren’t accessible by foot or even a well-oiled transportation system, most people need a vehicle to get around.
Although great in theory, remote working can become a huge hindrance to productivity if you don’t have the right tools and resources to help you work.
For instance, the Remote Work report from Morning Consult revealed that nearly one-quarter of respondents strongly agreed they felt more disconnected from coworkers while working remotely.
Because of this lack of connection, collaboration between you and colleagues can be difficult to achieve. While this is clearly damaging to projects that require hands-on teamwork, it also hurts personal relationships and socialization between you and your coworkers.
After a year of isolation from both our loved ones and coworkers, sometimes having a physical office to come into can be the spark of innovation we need during the work week.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the past year of people staying at home has greatly damaged their wellbeing due to social isolation. If your mental health is hurting, then your work performance inevitably will as well.
That flash of creativity that comes from an impromptu brainstorming session gets lost. Many workers have even expressed that the joy they once felt for their jobs has also begun to vanish.
Without these informal and meaningful connections with your coworkers, overall company morale suffers. And a company without healthy employee morale is a company at risk of losing their culture, thus their ability to provide high-quality services for clients.
Poor company culture means more than just lacking quirky company traits, it also has a direct impact on how happy employees are in their position and how well a company functions.
So if your culture is not nurtured, the drive of employees comes to a halt, hampering their quality of work and increasing turnover rates.
Isolation has been linked to not only poor mental health, but it can have physical implications as well.
In fact, studies have found that loneliness can cause or increase the risk of physical ailments such as:
Beyond the health risks that can come with working away from colleagues, it can also be difficult to mentor other employees from a distance. The lack of in-person interactions can stall career advancement opportunities, which also leads to decreased job satisfaction.
Not only that, but leaving out remote workers can cause them to lose their sense of purpose and belonging within the organization. If a worker feels that they are being left out of key decisions, then they may end up feeling easily replaceable.
Don’t be fooled — this also means more than just unhappy workers.
Employees that are not engaged in the workplace also cost employers billions of dollars each year.
In 2013, Gallup research estimated that disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity each year. This is particularly worrisome as we continue to navigate this era of isolation and some workers are forced to work from their homes.
And one of the more seemingly obvious downsides of a remote working position is simply that not everyone enjoys this arrangement.
Every worker is living their own unique experience and has their own work style that is beneficial to their productivity. For some, working from home may be disruptive to that.
Working parents know exactly what this is referring to.
Even beyond noisy children, trying to create an office setting in your own home may not be enough to keep you productive and focused on your tasks at hand. This can lead the distractions of home life to take over.
While you can try to create the ideal office-plant-riddled Zoom background that provides the facade of a cohesive home work environment, if you find yourself struggling with this arrangement, it can be hard to maintain that sense of professionalism in the long-term.
This is not to say there aren’t perks to working remotely, because of course there are.
However, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and there are numerous factors that can make this arrangement more burdensome than intended.
How can you improve this then?
Making Your Move In A Sustainable Way
Just because you’re a remote worker, does not necessarily mean that you are required to work from home. Yes, the end of the commute has been nice, but going to the office doesn’t have to mean trudging through hours of traffic every morning.
In fact, long commutes have been directly linked to poorer work performance.
The frustration of having to wake up much earlier than your scheduled work time just to get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic is almost always guaranteed to put a damper on your day.
This likely impacts you whether you’re a parent that is trying to get your kids to school and your desk on time, or someone who is anxious about the idea of taking public transportation in the middle of a global health crisis.
Most can agree: commutes can be despicable.
Even more, they can be costly both financially and mentally. Employees who have longer work commutes have to worry about:
- Car maintenance and gas
- Trying to find time for exercise
- Losing the desire to socialize
- Poor sleeping habits
- Being exposed to pollutants
- Increased feelings of stress
If we’ve learned anything over the past year about overall poor physical and mental health, it’s that it most definitely impacts our daily lives and how we perform at work.
But not all is lost.
If you have a new job location in the suburbs and are now feeling stranded in the middle of nowhere, look closer — it is likely that alternative solutions are closer than you think.
Allwork.space and its affiliates offer deeper insight into offices that are in your local area, and can help guide you down the right path of the perfect workplace arrangement that suits your needs.
These flexible spaces allow you to continue reducing commutes, but also offer an oasis away from the isolation of your home office.
You may be lucky, and your company has adopted a hybrid business model that specifically combines both remote working and in-person arrangements. Even large tech companies are adjusting their pre-pandemic work policies in order to adopt this new, more agile way of working.
For example, Microsoft recently announced it would be transitioning to this arrangement in order to accommodate workers who are “thriving” with remote working, and those who are eager to return to the office.
But this arrangement isn’t limited to just large companies. Small businesses, startups, and solo entrepreneurs can all benefit from a hybrid model.
By adopting a hybrid approach, professionals can eliminate the disadvantages of remote working by allowing people to work from home when they want, and bring them into the physical workplace for collaborative sessions, team-building exercises, and other gatherings that are best done in-person.
Simply put, it’s the best of both worlds.
Beyond making teamwork easier to manage, other perks companies can gain from a hybrid workplace are:
- Easier maintenance of corporate culture
- Reduced real estate expenses
- Increased employee retainment and work-life balance
- A boost in employee satisfaction
This arrangement doesn’t just satisfy the varying needs of employees — a PwC finds that 68% of employers believe that workers should be in the office at least three days each week. Insights like this show that hybrid work models are much more sustainable than permanent remote work structures, or a full return to the office.
Such data aligns with the 30% concept, which was largely used for safe pandemic-related work policies, but can also be applied to hybrid models once staffers have been fully vaccinated.
The 30% rule simply means the employees work 30% in the office and 70% remotely, and rotate employees who are performing in-office work.
Along with this, it is suggested that employers survey their workers every 30 days to have a deeper understanding of their performance and experience.
Knowing what each staff member needs is crucial to a well-oiled machine, so conduct surveys, focus groups, individual interviews, and team meetings so you can better support your employees during this transition.
But there’s more!
If you’re concerned about lackluster client or team gatherings due to the mass adoption of virtual conferencing tools, companies and remote workers alike can turn to flex spaces to help conduct more impactful meetings.
Using a flex space when meeting with investors or potential clients helps you maintain a professional image, even if the operation is mostly being run from your home in the suburbs.
Flex space can be rented on an as-needed basis, whether it’s daily or hourly, so you avoid paying excessive fees for an office that is mostly going underutilized.
However, it’s still essential to remember that there are a variety of ways to use a meeting room, and the type you need will depend on each unique interpersonal interaction.
These can range from:
- Group interviews
- Team meetings
- Team-building exercises
- Focus groups
- Investor meetings
- Creative brainstorming sessions
Identifying the exact purpose of the meeting you will be conducting will make it easier for you to choose the right space.
Taking into account all of these measures ensures that you and your team who have recently relocated are adjusting to new work arrangements in the most sustainable and productive way possible.
Avoiding Job Location Bias
One of the troubling factors of a distributed workforce is inequality across employees depending on their work arrangement.
For instance, remote workers may feel like they are being overlooked compared to their in-person counterparts.
According to a Robert Half survey of 2,800 workers, 70% of professionals who moved to remote working during the pandemic say they now work on the weekends, while 45% state they are working more hours during the week than they did before.
And there’s a variety of reasons why this is happening.
For starters, some workers are seeing increased workloads and feel the need to work more now than they did pre-pandemic to keep up with the demand.
What’s more is that some of these employees have expressed fear of being let go or unnoticed by their employers if they do not go above and beyond company expectations.
While this may look good on paper and appears as a spike in productivity, it’s a one-way ticket to burnout.
The concept of a work-life balance has become even more prominent today than ever before. Although remote working enthusiasts have touted this arrangement as a solution to work-life disparities, it is causing the lines between home and work to blur for some.
This is particularly evident among those who don’t have adequate home space to create a home office. When your remote office also serves as your living room, it can be difficult to truly unplug at the end of the day.
Again, another guaranteed path to burnout.
In order to avoid any inequity between these two types of workers, you as a leader should ensure that you are:
- Recognizing remote workers during meetings
- Acknowledging the good work all workers have accomplished is crucial when trying to boost employee morale and engagement, especially during these stressful times
- Try out rotating schedules between in-person and at-home employees
- Doing so can allow both of them to enjoy the perks of remote working, as well as the socialization and community of in-person arrangements
- Offer workers a choice and say in their arrangements, and find a way to create a healthy balance so no employees feels neglected or overlooked
If you still find that your arrangements are not benefiting all employees, try experimenting with a Work Near Home model.
Similar to hybrid models, Work Near Home simply means employees have access to workspaces closer to their homes.
This allows them to reap the benefits of remote working, such as shortening their commutes, while still allowing them access to a fully-equipped work environment with like-minded professionals.
Providing this type of flexibility shows that you as an employer want to support hard-working employees, even if that means they move to a different location. For workers who live outside of the company’s headquarters, it is easy to feel ignored in a distributed work environment.
Typically, workers in this arrangement are paid to work out of a flexible office or a coworking space, such as the workspaces provided by Allwork.space affiliates.
With the average worker spending 225 per day commuting, it’s important to find common ground for employees who enjoy the remote work lifestyle and have used it to migrate to new areas, while also making sure they are equipped with a workspace that helps them reap the benefits of both arrangements.
As we transition to the post-pandemic era of the world, it’s becoming clear that the workforce is taking charge of what they want and need from their employers.
For many, this means escaping the congested nature of the city and migrating to the spacious, quieter life in the suburbs.
Although some are wary of calling this a mass urban exodus, regions with particularly high costs of living are seeing people move away. For example, the regions around San Francisco and San Jose (among the most expensive housing markets in the U.S.) saw a rate of 23% and 17% permanent moves respectively.
And while yes, the data is still lacking, analysts wonder how this inevitable trend could impact the real estate world.
Some are anticipating that this shift will lead to a drop in real estate prices in big cities, causing residential businesses that rely on office workers, such as grocery stores and newspaper stands, to take a large hit.
While these predictions may be far off, one thing that is almost guaranteed are the business opportunities to arise in secondary cities and suburban areas.
By adopting this work arrangement, you get to enjoy a healthy work-life balance, the opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals in your town, and avoid the ever-dreaded commute.
So not only do you get to enjoy more space and calm at a much lower cost of living, your employer can easily cut their own costs by adjusting to the hybrid work or Work Near Home model.
If you’re a remote worker eager for a fresh start, you’re not alone.
Follow our tips, and you are sure to make your move in the most seamless and sustainable manner possible.
- What are the downsides of working from home?
- Working from home can bring a slew of problems, especially if you live in a smaller space. Home-based remote workers often deal with distractions (from family, pets, roommates, etc.), poor home office layout, lack of connectivity and tools needed for optimal work performance, and increased mental health problems due to isolation.
- What are the benefits of moving to the suburbs?
- The suburbs often have a lower cost of living than the city, which means that you can get a much larger home and surrounding space for the same price as your single-bedroom apartment. Even more, flourishing suburbs often feature similar amenities and entertainment that the city has to offer.
- Is remote work here to stay?
- Yes. Remote working has firmly established itself as a necessary tool in the future of work. We can expect to see companies large and small adjust their operational models to accommodate the new needs of employees, while reaping their own benefits, such as reduced overhead costs and enhanced productivity.
- Why are businesses switching to a hybrid remote work business model?
- Hybrid working models help alleviate the burden that can come with both remote and in-office work environments. It’s often viewed as the best of both worlds because employees have the flexibility to work from home for part of the week, and come into a physical office when they want a more professional setting or need a space for collaborative sessions.
- How can I make remote work easier?
- In order to make the most out of your remote working experience, it’s important to understand your own work style. If you thrive off of professional connections, then utilize a coworking or flexible office space throughout the week. On the other hand, if you are more individualistic in how you operate, make sure that you create a dedicated home office that is strictly for focusing on your work-related tasks.