While remote working had been increasing in the US leading into 2020, it is safe to say the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered how our society views the work from home movement. Many workers who are now experiencing little to no time in the office are living through both the benefits and drawbacks of a work from home environment. But what is the future of remote work? And how has the pandemic shaped a new workplace?

The percentage of U.S. workers working from home in some capacity is still over 50%. This is down slightly from beginning of the 2020 pandemic levels (which reached 70%), but seems to be leveling out into a new normal. More people working remotely has its benefits. Americans are saving over 60 million hours of commuting time per day, giving us more time to work, take care of children, and do other activities. We've had to adjust our at-home setup to fit in a home office (or two) as the corporate offices, shared spaces, and coffee shop options became less usable. And since few apartments and homes had a home office for one, let alone space for working parents and their school aged children, one may think efficiency would plummet. (For our thoughts on improving your own efficiency, click here)

So, have we become more productive at home? Studies so far are mixed. There are some that say that we are more creative and more able to do simple tasks in our home office, but others that say we contribute less and struggle communicating. There are also struggles with working remotely without the right setup. According to a Nulab study from August, over 70% of people were not working in a dedicated home office, and over 40 percent of people didn’t have a desk. Not surprising, those who had desks and a home office chair were more productive than those who worked at their dining table or on their couch or bed.

Yet, despite these challenges, people are adapting to and enjoying this change. According to a McKinsey report, 80 percent of people say they are happy working from home, and almost 70 percent say they are as productive or more productive than before. In another survey, over 1/3 of respondents said that they would take a pay cut in exchange for more work from home time. Now, more companies are figuring out new ways to work to cater to those desires. McKinsey expects more shared office space, more designated remote or semi-remote workers, and new offices designed for the digital meeting world. 

Some tech firms are already starting to allow their workforce to make permanent shifts to their workplace choices. Firms like Google, Shopify, and Salesforce have announced broad work from home policies that are expected to last beyond the COVID pandemic. Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square announced a permanent work from home option, though with the caveat of cost of living adjustments for those that move away from San Francisco, where their headquarters are located.

So, are people moving? Not yet. So far, there is little data to back up mass migration out of cities. New York and San Francisco have seen more out migration than most, though migrations out seem to correlate with migrations into Seattle and Los Angeles. How many employees return to office work in big cities after the pandemic is over will be a strong signal as to whether these working changes are an acceleration of a trend or just a one time blip.


Where will remote work go in 2021? Follow the blog to find out!


And if you are one of the 40 percent of people working at home without a desk, check out Porvata’s options of both standing and executive desks.


December 14, 2020