Corporations cannot stop remote work. Fatalistic articles frequently inform us that companies will give up remote work, because it is inefficient and because employee productivity is low. The claims in these articles are unrealistic because on the free market it is not possible to reach an agreement between all companies to give up this type of lucrative activity. In addition, the ability of employees to defend their newly earned rights and the effects of competition between companies is constantly underestimated.
Why are corporations unhappy with remote work?
Last year, in the weeks when the world’s inhabitants were under house arrest, companies reported unbelievable increases in work productivity and employee dedication. And yes, trapped between four walls, without many ways to spend their free time, the employees took refuge in work. Obviously, this way of working was not sustainable in the long run and boredom and apathy were expected to occur.
The initial delight of many managers has disappeared and they have begun to report declines in productivity. Most likely, they are not related to the pre-pandemic situation but to the atypical weeks of April and May 2020. Many managers do not understand what is happening and have difficulties in exercising control over remote employees. The way of working changed, but the management has not been able to keep up with the market changes.
Employee productivity probably did not even decrease compared to the period before the pandemic. The workers realized that they could perform their tasks faster and use the time difference for themselves. The return of these employees to the company’s headquarters would not increase their productivity and, given the time lost in travel and office socialization, their dissatisfaction would increase.
Employees became aware of their power
For employees who were forced to switch to remote work, the experience was brutal but revealing. They realized how much time they wasted each day traveling to work, talking to colleagues, and in meetings. The immediate effect was that their productivity increased, and later, when their preference for free time began to manifest, they began to focus only on their work duties, without working more than necessary. Probably this preference for free time is what contributed decisively to the creation of the image that the productivity of remote work is low. Employees simply prefer not to do more than they did in eight hours at their physical office. They work faster and use their earned time in their own interest.
The articles announcing the return of employees to traditional offices underestimate their resilience. Some of them will not be willing to return to the offices for the same salaries, provided that doing the same things at home saves them up to 3-4 hours / day (travel time, downtime at work, time off socialization, etc.). If companies try to force their return to office, they will face the resistance of many employees and a wave of resignations.
Corporations cannot dictate labor market conditions
Remote work is not in danger as long as there is competition between companies for talented employees with rare skills. They are difficult to replace and if they were forced to return to office they could easily resign. Valuable employees are not willing anymore to accept a job for the same salaries, office conditions and possible benefits.
Even if there are grievances within corporations about remote work, they will not have the courage to eliminate it. No firm is strong enough to control labor market conditions. If a company, regardless of its size, would announce that it would give up remote work in just a few days, it would face a wave of resignations, of some employees that are difficult to replace.
Start-ups can take advantage of the situation to achieve economies of scale
Start-ups and small companies, which until one or two years ago had problems finding employees, will be able to take advantage of the new market context. In order to get top employees, they will provide them with the required working conditions. The desire of a specialist to work remotely will not be an impediment to his employment. Lower labor costs and the ability to attract employees dissatisfied with the rigid work regime of large corporations will be competitive advantages for proactive companies.
We expect start-ups and companies that want to grow to come up with remote job offers with new benefits. It would not surprise us that, in a few years, companies will offer employees paid work vacation benefits. They could make it easier for them to travel to the most exotic places, just to boost their productivity. Companies could also bear the costs of children’s online schooling so that they can travel with their families.
Corporations cannot stop remote work. As long as there is competition between companies to attract talent from the market, remote work is not in jeopardy. If corporations struggle adapting to new labor market conditions, start-ups will take advantage of these to strengthen their positions.