Far fewer people are working in traditional offices, according to the latest studies.
Has the work world, as we knew it, changed forever? Before COVID-19 hit, only about 4% of the U.S. workforce (approximately 17 million people) telecommuted half-time or more. At the peak of the pandemic, 69% of U.S. employees worked remotely full-time, reports Global Workplace Analytics (GWA). Here are some related statistics on which to gnaw heading into Q2 ’22:
- In 2021, nearly 27% of U.S. employees worked remotely from home, according to the Small Business Trends website. Because smaller businesses often run on limited operating budgets, they are two times more likely to hire full-time, remote workers, Owl Labs reports.
- Three-quarters of employers think that remote work post-COVID will be the new norm, according to the research conducted by Growmotely. Furthermore, freelance platform Upwork predicts more than 36 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025.
- >80% of employees would be more loyal to their company if they had flexible work options, per FlexJobs, a remote job site.
To ring in the new year, Marc Cenedella wrote an article with this boldface headline: “The Office Is Closing.” Cenedella is founder and CEO of 19-year-old executive recruiting firm Ladders, Inc., which targets prospects looking for jobs that pay annual salaries in excess of $100,000. “Three million jobs went permanently remote in Q4 2021,” the article proclaimed. The author noted that the figure caught him somewhat by surprise. “Two years into the pandemic, I expected the growth rate in remote work would slow down,” he admitted, “or at least level out …. The trend is accelerating, not slowing down, and that has huge implications for all of us.
“The shift to working remotely is large, permanent and picking up speed,” Cenedella continued. “I’ve been in the jobs industry since 2000 …. When things have changed in the past, they tend to move at the rate of a few percentage points in a decade.”
Seize the Day
Is the traditional office really going away? Businesses can save more than $10,000 per year for every employee who works remotely half the time, according to GWA. Management consultancy McKinsey & Co. reports that one-third of chief operating officers surveyed say they plan to reduce office space in the coming years as current leases expire. But it’s not always easy or economically feasible, noted Adam Weiss, general manager of Atlantic, Tomorrow’s Office, a New York City equipment dealer. Especially in big cities and major metropolitan areas, employers can’t just close up shop.
“Many people are bound to long-term commercial leases,” Weiss pointed out. “They might still have, say, eight years left on a lease for office space in a Fifth Ave. building in downtown Manhattan.”
High-rent leases like that can be quite cost-prohibitive to break. On the other hand, he added, there’s no doubt that the pandemic has accelerated the decline of printing in the office. Commuting into cities on public transportation, such as crowded trains and buses, is not desirable for health-conscious staffers worried about spreading dangerous viruses. So, dealers like Tomorrow’s Office have been forced to help facilitate many clients’ printing-to-home transitions.
“But let’s be honest,” said Weiss, “is selling $300 to $500 home printers really where we want to be? That’s Staples’ world. How are we going to pick up that [lost] revenue?” Therein lies the challenge for office-equipment dealer owners and managers nationwide, most of whom can find some answers by adding value.
The Weiss family’s firm has seen way more hybrid-type working scenarios as opposed to totally remote situations. A FlexJobs survey revealed that one-third of employees want to be in a hybrid arrangement that allows them to work remotely at least for a few days a week/month. Owl Labs, a video-conferencing provider, reports that as many as 85% of U.S. companies already operate under a hybrid model and that 80% of U.S. employees expect to work remotely from home at least three times a week post-COVID-19.
Hybrid environments pose their own sets of challenges, Weiss says. A pair of technology-related opportunities come to mind:
- Support for new security risks.
- IT support
- Workflow Automation – (leveraging, software automation and document collaboration tools)
- Unified Communications (UC)
Last year Atlantic Tomorrow’s Office launched its UC offering, resulting in significant interest from existing and prospective clients. “UC is definitely a key part of our strategy moving forward as these systems are very scalable, easy to manage and people need the ability to stay connected no matter where they are or what device they may be using at the time,” reported Weiss.
There has been a dramatic shift toward co-managed services, he observed. “Some 70% of our IT services used to be fully managed support for clients,” said Weiss. But not anymore. It has flipped: “Around 70% of what we do on the IT side is co-managed, assisting with existing [client] staff because they need more resources.” Weiss cited four popular services clients are outsourcing these days: server management, infrastructure, security, and help desk.
The upside: These essential IT services can lure bigger organizations with at least 100 and up to 1,000 employees, all of whom may be working hybrid/remotely. Landing bigger fish, of course, leads to larger contract sizes. “We saw the opportunity, repackaged our offerings, and went after it,” stated Weiss.
Cenedella of Ladders views the move to remote work as permanent. “Once a company has hired dozens, hundreds or thousands of people outside of its offices, they can’t easily change their minds and go back. It’s a one-way street, undoing these decisions would be painful, expensive and demoralizing.”
The transition to remote is picking up speed because of the nature of hiring, added Cenedella. “Time-to-hire and quality of hire are how HR departments are measured. Once management opened the floodgates on remote hiring, HR rushed through. Why restrict yourself to hiring in just one city representing less than 1% of the talent in the country? It’s easier and faster and higher quality to hire from anywhere. Remote hiring has been a godsend for HR. For these reasons and more, remote hiring is rapidly becoming standardized in corporate America.”
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