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The End of Remote Work: Will Employees No Longer Work From Home?

With the flaring COVID cases, a global health pandemic transformed the way work is done. Homes become new offices, and dining tables become the new workspaces But, now, when the pandemic is seemingly inching towards its end, will it also means an end to remote work?

Is This the end of Remote Work?

Remote work was not a brand-new concept. Though the pandemic skyrocketed the virtual working trends, even before 2020, over 6% of the workforce in the US operated remotely.

But, the remote work culture brought about by the COVID pandemic also shifted the work culture. It made work more inclusive, flexible, and diverse. Mothers who could not commit to eight hours in the office can now log in from home and meet their targets. Specially labeled individuals can now join the workforce from the comfort of their homes.

Not too long ago, work-from-home was touted as the future of work. However, today it is seemingly presented as a thing of the past.

In the United States, Apple has asked its employees to return to the offices for at least three days a week. Apple’s reason: the work-from-office format will help the workforce reconnect with the team and meet new colleagues.

It’s a fair point, and Apple is definitely not alone in this change. Tesla, the world’s biggest e-vehicle company, has now mandated its employees to return to work for at least 40 hours in the office, which makes up five eight-hour work days. Netflix, Goldman Sachs, and many Unicorns are following the lead.

However, after being forced to return to offices, workers at AT&T have started a petition to make the work-from-home policy permanent. Apple employees, too, aren’t happy about the proposed hybrid setup.

But why are companies circling back to in-office setup?

Why Are Companies Mendating Return to Office?

While flexibility and diversity are important, employee productivity is what fuels businesses. But, while working from home works well for individual contributions, teamwork and collaborative projects have suffered.

Bussines are seeing the losses. That’s why they are recalling the employees to offices. In India, for example, 75%-100% of workers have already returned to offices in over 35% of the organizations. Tech, telecom, and consulting sectors have seen the highest rate of return.

But how are employees coping with the change?

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Many who complained about blurring lines between professional and personal lives are happy. But, the vast majority do not like the idea of onsite work setups.

Once the person has tasted the comfort of working from home, circling back to the old ways can be difficult. For instance, a survey conducted in April 2022 found that about 64% of workers would prefer to quit if asked to return to work full-time. Plus, 52% would consider taking a pay cut.

Not long before, the great resignation was on the boom. Workers knew they had a fluid job market to leverage. But the Russia-Ukraine war, global energy and food crisis, and the looming recession have changed a lot of things.

The Effect of Mass Layoff and Hiring Freezes

With economies preparing to battle a recession, some of the biggest companies have announced a hiring freeze. Tech-based companies are hit the worst. Many tech giants have announced layoffs or hiring freezes, including:

  • Google: At the beginning of 2022, the company declared a recruiting slowdown and a two-week pause on hiring in July.
  • Coin base: In June, the company imposed a recruiting freeze. A few weeks later, it laid off over 1,100 workers.
  • Microsoft: Starting by reducing hiring, the Unicorns also started letting one of its employees in July.
  • Meta (formerly Facebook): The company reduced recruiting of new engineers by 30%. Whereas internal reports highlight that the CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is also encouraging the staff to consider quitting.
  • Twitter: What began with withdrawing job offers, the company laid off 30% of its talent acquisition team in June

And many startups and SMEs have also followed the lead.

With the layoff and lack of recruits, the work pressure on employees is increasing. At Google, for example, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, asked its employees to work with “more hunger.” In an anonymous interview by Tech.Co, one of Google’s employees, said,

“The communication has been rude, threatening people to make sure we hit numbers.”

What we are staring at is a fast-closing job market. Under such circumstances, employees are now forced to return to their desks. But, for workers, it means less bargaining power.

If not Remote, then What is the Future of Work?

Fully-remote work culture is dying, for sure. But a complete onsite or work-from-office culture is also not thriving. Even the employers of the world’s most prominent organizations understand that a negotiation is inevitable. But, if not remote or entirely onsite, what will be the future of work?

Hybrid Work Model!

While companies are ready to welcome all their employees back to offices, in the long haul, if businesses want to hire the best talent, they’ll have to meet the employees halfway. Employees today prefer flexible working. Even 87% of US workers say they will pick work from home if given a choice.

Therefore, the business will have to come up with hybrid work models. This means allowing employees to work from home and offices alternatively. Some experts believe even co-location can also become the new norm.

The co-location will enable employees to alternate between different locations across the country while ensuring that at least a portion of the team can work from the offices. Companies like Uber, JP Morgan Chase, Disney, and Ernst & Young have already adopted the model.

So, to answer our question if remote work is dying:

Whether companies like it or not, flexible, remote, and hybrid working is the future.