COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way employees work, and the way businesses operate. The pandemic fueled the need for the continued transformation of office space to better support social distancing, provide cleaner and more efficient workplace environments, and offer work from home opportunities.
Remote work trends have been accelerating for more than a decade. A study conducted by Global Workplace Analytics estimated that the total growth of U.S. employees that work remotely has grown by 159% over the last 12 years, 91% over the previous ten years, and 44% over the previous five years. While the recent pandemic forced employers to become more flexible with employee work arrangements, the sustained growth has been part of the workplace evolution well before the impacts of COVID-19. Although the volume of remote workers continues to grow, the total percentage of employees working remotely has been relatively low compared to total employment. It is estimated that before COVID-19, only 5% of U.S. employees worked remotely most of the time, representing approximately 7.6 million workers. When including those who worked remotely at least part-time, the total percentage increased to 24%, representing 36.5 million of the total 152 million employed in early 2020. As such, three-quarters of the workforce exclusively worked from the office prior to the pandemic. However, these figures shifted in 2020 as between 60% and 65% of employees currently work remotely full-time.
In response, most companies implemented successful work from home strategies during the short-term. But as offices begin to reopen, employers will need to consider incorporating flexible work arrangements to cultivate employee engagement and retain talent. Many surveys suggest that more than 80% of employees would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers, while a 2020 survey compiled by Gensler found that only 12% want to work from home full-time. In the end, most employees want to return to the workplace in some capacity, but they want to be in an office environment that incorporates social distancing, promotes health and wellness and values employee safety.
Director of Research