Daily Digest News – March 11, 2021

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Here’s what you need to know today:

How Each State Adjusted To Remote Working

After a year of economic and existential uncertainty, there appears to be a glimmer of hope at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

Now society has the opportunity to look back and have a clearer vision of just how much lockdowns impacted the workforce.

Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s weekly Household Pulse Survey, Commercial Cafe identified how many people telecommuted throughout the pandemic, and which demographics best adjusted to this new normal.

According to the findings, one in three Americans worked from home last year. In 2019, there were an estimated 8.9 million remote workers, but that number jumped 916% to 91 million.

However, the amount of people moving to remote working positions did not impact every state to the same extent. For instance, Rhode Island saw an increase of 1,358% of remote workers from 2019 to 2020.

Following closely behind was Mississippi’s increase of 1,257% and Maryland’s 1,235%.

On the other hand, South Dakota saw the smallest percentage growth by 509%.

In Colorado, the population of digital nomads grew from 274,000 in 2019 to nearly 2 million in 2020. Because the state already had a fairly large percentage of remote workers prior to the pandemic, it’s percentage growth was among the smallest at 619%.

Many of the variations in remote working percentages are largely based on job roles. For example, 62% of adults older than 18 worked remotely in Washington D.C. since much of its economy relies on office-using sectors.

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The Importance Of Passive Collaboration

For decades, companies have experimented with the idea of flexible work arrangements, with many finding perks to this style of working. However, it took an unprecedented pandemic to get the majority of people on board.

After companies large and small were forced to close their doors, transition to remote working and continue to do so today, it has become clear that this style of working is here to stay.

But it hasn’t been easy for all. While some organizations were already equipped with the technology necessary to make this arrangement work, others struggled to adjust to this new reality without the home office tools necessary.

One year later, it feels like most companies operating remotely have gotten the hang of it. Still, there has been one component of the workplace that has not been properly replicated: passive collaboration.

Active collaboration is able to be conducted over video conferencing tools and emails, but the spontaneous bursts of creativity that happen in office hallways can’t be reproduced virtually.

For instance, there is a common misconception that software engineers only need a computer and internet to accomplish their work by themselves. 

However, the best engineering is done with the help of collaborative sessions to brainstorm and work through problems with colleagues.

While tools like Google Docs can help with asynchronous active collaboration, the engagement that comes from sporadic ideas are unmatched.

That’s why it is important for companies to find new ways to enhance the employee experience, particularly as the world embraces an increasingly distributed workforce.

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Preparing For A More Agile Workplace

Over the past two decades, various crises have impacted the commercial office market. From the 9/11 attacks to the Great Recession and now the pandemic, the changes to the office market have carried both positives and negatives.

Although concerns over the death of the office have riddled the industry, Newmark vice chairman Scott Klau believes these fears are exaggerated.

“This crisis is not like the previous ones,” said Klau. “There have not been significant layoffs. Corporate earnings are strong. There will be greater demand for flexibility and safety, but our research indicates that most companies are planning to be back in the office by the fall of 2021. Even if people work at home two days a week and are in the office three days, your footprint doesn’t substantially change.”

According to Klau, one of the first signs of recovery are happening in New York’s Grand Central submarket, where RXR Realty’s 230 Park Avenue location is already prepared for the future of flexibility.

In partnership with architecture and design firm Vocon and furniture manufacturer Steelcase, RXR will be installing new HVAC systems, movable walls and more in order to become more agile.

“The word ‘flexibility’ gets thrown around a lot, but what it really means is modularity,” said Debbie Donley, principal of Vocon. “We simplified everything so the tenant can prescribe what they need and get into the space quickly.”

RXR’s digital design lab has also been working on a new proptech digital platform that hopes to provide occupants with fully-informed decisions about how they want to use the space.

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Are Desk Workers Prioritized Over Frontline Workers?

Research from Opinion Matters has found that there is a clear disparity between desk-based and frontline workers when it comes to Digital Employee Experience (DEX).

In fact, one-fifth of HR and International Communications (IC) respondents stated that they have been focusing more on employees in the office, as opposed to the 12% prioritizing deskless workers.

The shift to hybrid working and shift to a remote workforce has been the biggest change caused by the pandemic. With this, 45% of HR and IC professionals expressed that their organizations have a lack of understanding about how to improve employee engagement across all roles.

Additionally 44% have been able to improve and tailor their communications to employees, while 38% stated they have adapted the type of content they use to keep workers engaged.

Even more, employee expectations have greatly evolved in the past year as well, with 30% of respondents stating that there is an increased interest in hearing from senior leadership among the workforce.

“HR/ICs have become crucial to better business outcomes since the pandemic turned employee engagement and experience on its head,” said Nicole Alvino, founder and CSO at SocialChorus. “As businesses continue to develop and shape their DEX in a way that works for their business and employees, the focus must be to ensure that all workers, both desk-based and deskless, are fully communicated with, feel totally connected and, crucially, feel valued by their organisations.”

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Offices Will Become Social Hubs In The Future

As we hit the one-year mark of the WHO declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, working in an office and interacting with colleagues every day seems like a distant memory.

However, as millions of Americans continue to be vaccinated daily, returning to the workspace could be within reach sooner than predicted.

But that doesn’t mean things will return to pre-pandemic normalcy. In fact, it is safer to say the office will never be the same.

Instead, we can expect a more hybrid future for workplaces, meaning the office will need to undergo adjustments in order to accommodate the new future of work.

This is vital as research has actually found that employees want to come back into the office for at least part of the week. Many have expressed missing spontaneous, face-to-face interactions with their colleagues and are experiencing feelings of isolation.

That’s why the office will likely reemerge as a social hub moving forward. Instead of a space where employees come in five days each week to get any and all work done, it will serve as an environment dedicated to collaboration and community.

With this will be the need for new technology that keeps employees safe and occupancy low. Tools like indoor mapping to help eliminate crowded areas and technology that helps increase sanitizing practices will be crucial moving forward.

Additionally, one of the most inevitable changes of the pandemic will be an increasingly flexible workforce that relies on alternative workspace operations.

In fact, research from CBRE found that 86% of companies plan to use flexible space as part of their real estate strategies moving forward.

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Human-centric Job Perks Will Be Necessary For The Future

Job perks of the future must go beyond unlimited coffee, casual Fridays and catered lunches. As we prepare for post-pandemic society, potential talent will need more human-centric benefits from their workplace.

One of the biggest perks an employee can get from their employer is trust. Over the past year, workers have realized the importance of having the trust of their leaders and the impact it can have on their performance.

During this year of isolation, connection has become one of the most sought-after work experiences. Creating a community that is supportive and connected will be crucial moving forward.

Although some employees will return to the office at least part of the week, there is still a need for improvements to the work-from-home experience. Several workers struggled to balance their home and work life as they attended meetings from their bedrooms and handled client calls in their kitchens.

Supporting workers in these arrangements by providing them with the necessary equipment and resources can not only make employees feel nurtured by their employer, but also help improve their productivity.

While this may seem like a given, having healthcare benefits has become more in demand than ever before. Workers have spent the past year hyper focused on their own physical and mental health, so providing them a healthcare plan will be a necessity.

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