Remote work is currently the new normal for white-collar salaried employees the world over. A sizable part of the global workforce is working from home according to recent estimates. But is remote work going to continue long after the crisis has passed? Research firms are conducting surveys and studies across geographies to try and learn what the future of work will look like.

WFH: Not always a rosy picture

Companies and employees are finding it is not so easy to adapt to the realities of remote work. While technology is a big enabler with video conferencing and work collaboration platforms, at least 70% of US employers are still struggling to adapt, according to a survey of more than 2000 HR professionals by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

In fact, research also shows that tools like Zoom are a poor substitute for in-person human interaction. Video conferencing with team members cannot provide the same opportunities for team bonding, support, creative brainstorming, or supervision that are essential for a thriving and satisfying work environment. More than one one-third of US employers polled in the SHRM survey said they faced difficulties with nurturing company culture, team morale, and leave regulations.

Additionally, the blurring of work-life space has led to burnout or fatigue among employees who are on call for longer hours while also juggling family responsibilities. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that 50% of companies saw productivity drop after the shift to remote work.

Future of work

Research firm Gartner’s study has found that 82% of companies are mostly planning to let employees continue to work from home at least some of the time, while 47% say they will allow employees to work remotely permanently. 43% of organizations polled said they would have a flex days system for employees while 42% said they would provide employees the option of working flex hours. This means that many organizations can expect a new challenge post-pandemic – managing a hybrid workforce.

Organizations that are planning for the re-entry of employees into office are instituting a variety of safety measures to ensure safety and peace of mind. Companies will have to focus equally on the employee experience to make sure employees feel safe and are connected to the company culture. Face-to-face meetings would be limited, say 94% of companies in the Gartner study, while protective equipment like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers would be provided. 83% of respondents said that they would stagger employee attendance at the workplace via flex hours and days.

The pandemic has forced organizations into a new kind of wide-scale remote work experiment and a new normal. As companies begin to prepare for the post-pandemic era, they will need to re-examine some of the old ways of working and contend with newer employee expectations.