The number of remote workers in the next five years is expected to be nearly double what it was before Covid-19: By 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be remote, an increase of 16.8 million people from pre-pandemic rates, according to Upwork’s Future Workforce Pulse Report.
Hiring managers predict that people will gradually continue to return to the office, with only 26.7% of the workforce fully remote in one year. In five years, hiring managers expect that 22.9% of workers will be remote. One-third of workers will be working remotely at least some of the time in the long-run. By comparison, only 12.3% were working remotely before the pandemic.
There are, of course, competing theories about who is returning to the office and when. One theory was recently put forward on On CNBC’s “Power Lunch,” when CBRE CEO Bob Sulentic predicted that 80% or more of occupancy will come back to offices.
But many of those employees may be working in different types of spaces in the future. Sulentic expects companies to employ hybrid strategies where they could continue to allow employees to work at home for a few days a week or even go into flexible spaces that function as hubs.
As evidence of this trend, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai announced in an internal email last week that the company will be piloting a flexible workweek in which employees come in three days for collaboration and work at home two days. This plan should go into effect after employees return to work, which is now scheduled for September 2021, according to the New York Times.
Pichai said the company is testing the hypothesis that a flexible work environment would lead to “greater productivity, collaboration, and well-being,” according to The Times.
However the future of the office plays out, the pandemic has proven that remote workers can be productive. Nine months into the lockdown, 41.8% of the American workforce remains fully remote, according to Upwork. Right now, 56.8% of Americans are still working from home, at least some of the time.
Sixty-eight percent of hiring managers say remote work is going more smoothly now than at the start of the pandemic. Only five percent said remote work was working worse than at the beginning of the pandemic. One-third of the respondents said it was working much better.
“Increased productivity and flexibility continue to be key benefits of remote work: Hiring managers cite reduction of non-essential meetings, increased schedule flexibility, and no commute as aspects of remote work that have worked better than expected,” according to Upwork.