International Finance

Work From Home culture takes over biz world

IFM_Work From HOme Culture

After the COVID-19 outbreak in China’s Wuhan in late 2019, the year 2020 brought a culture shock for the traditional office rulebooks as the whole world went into lockdown mode by March. To stop the transmission of this contagious respiratory virus, Work From Home (WFH) and Remote Workplaces emerged. After two years of strict pandemic rules and aggressive vaccination campaigns, now normalcy is getting restored again across the globe.

While the WFH has shown that employees can produce the same office-like productivity from their homes, with help of personal computers/laptops and good internet connections, no one can deny the role workplaces play in areas such as team collaboration, employer-employee networking and most importantly, mental health of the professionals. Technology is powering up the Hybrid Work culture, where the staffers on alternative days, can perform their duties from anywhere instead of reporting to the offices.

While the office properties of the companies are still facing the COVID aftershocks ahead of the recession madness, they still remain a major component of the white-collar economy. The following are some of the trends and success formulas that companies can follow in this ‘Flexible Office’ environment, without compromising on the basic work cultures.

Decentralisation the key

With technology driving the 21st-century economy, decentralisation is becoming the mantra for businesses. Sitting from their headquarters, the business leaders can connect to their employees and clients through video calling tools such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet to conduct meetings.

As per reports, as the US white collar workers worked from suburbs and second and third-tier cities in the last two years, there is still a great demand for office spaces as the pandemic wanes and these employees feel the urge of having a formal work atmosphere. The study also said that despite embracing the tech, companies are looking for solutions such as downsizing main headquarters and opting for smaller office spaces available in suburban markets. It’s a win-win situation for both parties as the property markets in small cities get boosted, while the businesses can maintain their diverse profile by attracting more job seekers from such regions. These smaller offices can stay in touch with their headquarters in the form of virtual communication tools. The businesses not only get exposed to a wider range of regional economies, but also can come up with region-specific operations strategies.

Flexible offices are here to stay

A recent YardiKube survey saw over 90% of US businesses preferring formal office setups to ensure companies’ well-being. Artificial Intelligence data said that employee footfalls in workplaces haven’t reached the 2019 level. In August this year, the office visit rate saw a 17.4% rise from what the ratio was in early 2022. Another Gallup poll showed that the workers’ preference for the hybrid model is rising.

While big shots such as Apple and Tesla have asked their employees to return to the office, media reports have talked about logistical nightmares such as fewer work desks in these places. While most workplaces are undergoing post-COVID transformations, there are concerns over social distancing rules, forcing the companies to increase their office footprints to decongest workspaces. Some businesses have even opted for an alternative reporting days model, where their employees can do work from home on certain days in a week.

Crexi’s study has reported an 18% increase in the amount of US co-working spaces, along with a shrinking commercial property market, as businesses are quickly grabbing up whatever new buildings are available. It shows one thing, as the recession nears, investing in co-working spaces, rather than building a new headquarter from scratch, makes more sense for the businesses. A recent Gartner survey has said that three out of four finance executives may move a minimum of their 5% onsite workers to permanent remote workplace arrangements.

How does this solution help?

If we take the US white collar market, branded businesses are already reaping the benefits of the Work From Anywhere pattern, as per reports. Tech firm Sun Microsystems are saving some USD 68 million in real estate costs in a year, while Dow Chemical and Nortel didn’t have to spend over 30% of their non-real estate capital. Global WorkplaceAnalytics study saw some six of its 10 survey participants talking about cost savings, a major plus from this WFH solution.

Areas such as commercial property rent and utilities, cleaning services, cafeteria services, taxes, vehicle parking fees, employee health insurances, stationeries and electricity bills witnessed major spending decline in the last two years for some of the businesses. On the staffer front, many first-time job seekers too are now opting for flexible work patterns, so that they can balance professional and personal commitments. A report has also said that the companies can maintain a better staff retention ratio, if they pass on the WFH benefits to staffers with parental responsibilities. lt helps your business to see an improvement in employee retention.

A Stanford study too has found that despite not reporting to the office, 13% of its surveyed remote workers are showing more productivity than their on-site counterparts. Minus the disadvantages of being surrounded by noisy colleagues and commuting-related stresses, these staffers have displayed the traits of maintaining calm minds and sharp focus on their professional commitments. As per a Hubstaff report, 65% of US workers believe they are super productive, while working from home. Around 85% of the surveyed business leaders agreed with the fact.

Remote work policy beneficial for employees and jacks up company profiles as well

Work From Home comes with the perk of the staffers having better time management skills to maintain their work-life balance. A Multiplier survey cited some 84% of its survey participants backing the remote working method as having a positive impact on their mental health as well. While it increases their gratefulness quotient towards the employee, the business leaders can use that factor to increase the team productivity by asking his/her juniors to increase their shifts by a few hours, if the need arises.

US-based software firm Coso Cloud, in its recent surveys, identified some 35% of staffers using their spare time for some sort of physical exercise, thanks to the Work From Home. With a good diet, they can remove the job-related burning out factor as well, boosting their productivity even more. Not to mention the cost-saving aspect as well, where they don’t need to spend on their daily commuting, food and office dresses, stationery and other things. Also, they can invest some spare time in their hobbies as well.

While Census Bureau Data 2018 mentioned that the US workers lose 117.7 minutes in a week on commuting alone, the ratio reaches 96 hours in a year. A 2019 study from the leading freelancing website ‘Upwork’ stated that by 2028, 73% of United States businesses will have remote staffers. It also said that the companies will be offering commercial spaces in their staffers’ resident cities, which can be used as a company based in that geographical territory, with tech support connecting them with the main headquarter. The report highlighted the importance of having a mixed and merged workforce, which now has emerged as a ‘Hybrid Workforce’.

A ‘Slack’ report has said that some 78% of professionals now want flexibility when it comes to reporting to work. Instead of jostling in cramped cubicles, they are giving preference to the hybrid workplace concept. Shifting to the work-from-home concept has been beneficial, especially for those, who went back to their hometowns during the COVID pandemic and global lockdowns. If they would have been staying in the cities, where their offices are, they would have to spend money on their food and accommodation rents, which currently are not required, if they are reporting to their duties from their hometowns themselves, through the help of tech.

Talk about the pre-pandemic days, when your work-life balance would have easily gone into the thin air, thanks to the juggling between your professional tasks, presentation deadlines and household chores, family commitments. Thanks to the hybrid work culture, the stress levels on this particular front are now slowly coming down among the workers. They can spend most of their time with their near and dear ones, and celebrate birthdays and anniversaries without opting for too many holidays. A bunch of happy, satisfied and grateful employees is all businesses need at the end of the day to keep the productivity level going.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has jumped into the debate, saying that his staffers can work from home, as long as they clock 40 reporting hours in a week. As per a Stanford economist, working from home is driving growth at companies across the globe and some other studies have already supported his claim. One of them even found that 77% of workers witnessed increased productivity in the hybrid atmosphere.

For businesses, having a flexible work pattern means fewer distractions in form of office chit-chat sessions between the team members, on a bigger picture, this flexibility model can be a big boost for the companies, as they will get branded as ‘progressive’ ones, embracing the work culture related changes much faster than their competitors.

Having a remote-first work policy can help these companies not only to tap the young workforce with promises such as better work-life balance and tech-friendly workplace, but these leaders can also present this narrative of decreasing the carbon footprint with the Work From Anywhere method. They can also cover the time zone-related gaps in their business operations by hiring talents across all parts of the world, ensuring they remain 24/7 up for their duties.

Flexible workplaces will remain relevant in the future as well, as it offers the much-needed work-life balance for the workers, while business leaders can save costs and increase team productivity with the effective use of technology. It’s a win-win situation for both sides. The commercial real estate sector has always shown resilience against inflation and interest rate hikes, which means that the companies which are going for regional, decentralised workplaces, may come up with their own headquarters in near future.

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