For The Daily Item

In 2020, many workers switched from working in-person to working remotely due to COVID-19.

Some who moved to remote work stayed there, while others worked in other locations part of the time. With the pandemic (hopefully) nearing an end, employers are faced with decisions on what normal will look like post-pandemic.

Employers are also faced with determining the business decisions that will help operations resume and keep their employees engaged and happy on the job.

According to a recent survey conducted by Upwork, one in four employees will work from home in 2021, compared to 7% in 2018.

Couple this with the recent report from PwC that uncovered 55% of employees want the flexibility of a hybrid model, there may be more employers who consider fully remote or hybrid models for employment.

Here are what employers may do, and why they may do it. For workers, understanding this might help you understand your employer’s decision and put you in a position to thrive as we return to normal.

Why would a firm want to keep workers remote?

Firms could see significant cost savings by allowing remote work. This is especially true if firms can reduce their real estate costs in expensive metro areas.

Even prior to the pandemic, there were examples of firms relocating away from New York City or California, where real estate is expensive (and sometimes other regulations are expensive), to lower cost places like Texas.

Having a remote workforce can significantly reduce the cost for an employer, even with cost of the technological infrastructure needed for remote workers.

On top of this, many employees want to work remotely. Firms who opt for this model will be increasingly attractive to job seekers, current employees, and potentially expand their talent pool.

Why would a firm force a return to in-person?

We’ve heard many employees claim on LinkedIn, other social media sites, and anecdotally through conversation that their productivity increased when offered the opportunity to work remotely.

While that undoubtably is true for some, it’s also undoubtably false for others, as people not perfect judges of their productivity.

According to some managers, some employees who claim to be more productive working from home behaviors have performance metrics that show the exact opposite. So some employers may want in-person work for more efficiency.

Further, in many workplaces, in-person work might be essential to the operational model, where quick tasks may come up randomly that require immediate attention in-person.

In a hybrid or remote option, workers may miss or skip these tasks while those who work in person would be forced to take those on which impacts productivity and morale.

Why would a firm adopt a hybrid model?

In a hybrid model, where workers are in-person some of the time and remote some of the time, the best of both remote and in-person models unite.

For a hybrid worker, they cut down on commuting time and costs relative to full in-person work, which may allow for a more agile work schedule and better work-life balance.

The option of coming into the office when needed allows for in-person meetings to occur, which may be important to the culture and executing the work. While we cannot see into the future, we think more employers will trend in the hybrid direction.

The current and future state of work is certainly influx with more changes to anticipate moving forward. Undoubtedly, firms have a difficult decision to make when deciding on a best model.

Employees also may also decide to seek a model that works best for them. But understanding what a firm wants for their workforce, and why they want it, could be helpful for employees seeking the opportunities to help them thrive.

Allie Grill is associate director of the Career Development Center at Susquehanna University and Matt Rousu is dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna University. Views do not necessarily represent those of their employer.

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