When the COVID-19 virus first started circulating, quick action saved lives. Companies sent workers home. Restaurants stopped serving. Planes stopped flying: all in the name of protecting the lives of those most vulnerable while we figured out a way to manage this new and deadly illness.
Now, the world is about to emerge on the other side. Effective vaccines are being administered by the millions. Every day, more people gain immunity to COVID-19. Yet, there’s no reason to rush the return to normal.
Many employees have expressed their willingness to continue to allow work from home. Remote work offers numerous advantages, from creating a comfortable workspace complete with office blinds, an ergonomic chair and high-speed internet to offering a more flexible schedule, allowing them a better work-life balance.
Employers Want to Prioritize Safety
The biggest tech companies in America have publicly stated their plans to extend their work from home plan for much of 2021.
“We have a responsibility not only to adhere to the public health guidelines but to be slower than others in bringing people back simply because we can,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith.
Microsoft and other large corporations can afford a slow return to the office. They have maintained a productive workforce throughout the pandemic and have seen many record-breaking quarterly financials.
But even companies that haven’t fared as well financially are likely to remain working from home for the foreseeable future. Early in the pandemic, big tech was the first to send workers home. Many other industries felt pressured by this action and quickly followed suit. Given all the media attention to COVID-19, it’s unlikely any company will want to be known for sending its workers back to the office too soon.
The Myth of Reaching Herd Immunity
While the vaccines are effective, they take time to distribute. Local hospitals, pharmacies and health organizations are hard at work vaccinating as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the COVID-19 virus continues to circulate and mutate.
According to health experts, these mutations have made achieving herd immunity an impossible moving target. Several of the vaccines are less effective against the variants. Some variants have significantly higher rates of infectivity.
Understandably, reduced efficacy makes workers worried about their risk of contracting the disease if they return to the office. Without herd immunity, forcing workers to return to the office is a difficult sell. Even those workers who are vaccinated could still present a risk as CDC guidance still recommends limited contact for vaccinated Americans.
Digital Technology Is Working
The pandemic accelerated our adoption of technology. Work from home trends leaped ahead by almost 10 years over just a few months. Many companies made investments into employees’ remote workspaces instead of their corporate offices, so working from home became just as enjoyable and productive as office work.
While remote work doesn’t suit every industry, many have benefited from the adoption of technology. Work from home has reduced commute times, improved air quality and increased productivity. Offices have figured out how to collaborate using online platforms and integrate technology to the benefit of all. Many fear a return to the office will only slow the innovation created by the unique circumstances of the pandemic.
Corporations Are Investing in Work From Home
You don’t need to believe corporations are trying to do the right thing by delaying returning to the office. Just look to where big corporations are putting their investments to see what their vision for the future looks like. Office buildings remain empty, and leases have yet to be renewed for many industries. Work from home trends have opened new avenues for corporate investments while they’ve closed the door on traditional office work.
Here are five key trends in corporate investments that show working from home is here to stay:
Consumer Goods Bets on Trends
The rapid change to work from home saw dramatic shortages in various consumer goods. From toilet paper to snack food, getting your hands on your favorite products proved difficult for many months. Demand for these products has remained high, causing several consumer goods giants to make new investments.
Kraft and General Mills are investing in expanding the production of snack foods and developing more work-from-home-friendly meals. Kimberly Clark is expanding the production of home toilet paper rolls, converting an old plant that used to make toilet paper for office buildings.
Fashion Moves to Athleisure
One of the more interesting fashion trends to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic was the adoption of the new professional wardrobe. Fashion retailers noticed an increase in sales of professional tops while pant sales plummeted.
Sales of athleisure have also skyrocketed, leading online retailers like Stitch Fix and Amazon to increase their inventories of those styles by over 150 percent.
Restaurants Focus on Three Ds
Some of the hardest-hit businesses during the pandemic, restaurants are adapting to and investing in the future. McDonald’s revealed in its recent earnings call that it is focusing on delivery, digital and drive-thru, as these are the trends it sees growing steadily in the future. Many restaurants are developing ways to run delivery and digital ordering in-house rather than pay exorbitant fees to third-party services.
Office Decor Moves Home
The pandemic forced many individuals to spend more time at home than ever before. This has resulted in growth in the housing and construction industries. As people move into larger homes, the demand for home office furniture and decor has increased. Many people are installing room darkening blinds to encourage better sleep as the transition from work to home has been made more difficult.
Cities Offer Incentives
It’s not just corporations who are betting on the lasting trend of working from home. Many small- and medium-sized cities are investing in programs to encourage remote workers to make the move. Offers of up to $10,000 and a bike are available for remote workers willing to commit to living in a new location for a year or two. These incentives benefit both the workers and the city, so long as the trend for highly paid remote work continues.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay
The pandemic changed the way we work. Workers and companies have adapted to the work from home lifestyle. Even with vaccines reducing the spread of COVID-19, workers and employers remain hesitant to send their workers back to the office. Settle into your home office since it’s likely to stay for the rest of the year.