In the days since the pandemic broke out, a lot of things have changed. The way we live, the way we work…everything is up in the air. Even though life is far from normal, one thing has become abundantly clear: traditional “office-based work” is no longer sustainable.
I have been living in the “remote-first-utopia” for the past 8 years, so way before it became mainstream due to Covid-19 lockdowns and it’s very exciting to witness the bigger macro trends that are now driving us to a new reality of how work gets done and where. In this blog post, I’ll explore some of these macro trends that are driving this significant shift, so stay tuned.
Oversupply of traditional commercial real-estate
With so many people now working remotely, companies are now realizing that they don’t need to maintain large physical offices anymore. Especially when backed by the results of this survey of close to a million US workers at Fortune 500 companies which showed that productivity remained stable or increased after employees began working remotely.
This shift away from traditional office buildings will have a profound impact on the commercial real estate market and could lead to an oversupply of traditional office spaces in the years to come. More innovative companies are already taking these learnings and re-designing their offices to look and feel more residential, so the remote workers would prefer to get their work done there, even if they’re not required to come into the office at all. The winning formula seems to be – to design a space that has lots of variety (communal areas for socializing, coffee corners, silent call booths, private offices, etc) and allows people to choose their immediate work environment based on how they feel in the moment.
So what type of impact will it all have on commercial real estate? I predict some type of collapse followed by a commercial real estate renaissance that transforms the spaces where we spend our productive hours. I believe that remote workers will have more freedom and flexibility than ever before to choose their own work environment (and to change it as often as they wish). Picking a workspace for a day/week/month could become a similar choice to picking an outfit to wear and the responsibility of picking the place falls on the employee and not the employer.
Fierce refusal to return to the office
Even with these cozy new office concepts, there are large groups of people who are not planning on ever returning to the office. Forbes says: “After Almost Two Years Of Working Remotely, It Will Be Nearly Impossible To Demand People To Return To The Office” and looking at the backlash some of the old-school CEO’s announcing the “return to the office” are getting, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay.
This is one of the most visible remote work trends in the post-pandemic era. According to a study by FlexJobs, remote work has grown by over 140% in the past decade, and that number is only going to continue to grow. The main reason for this uptick is that people have discovered the many perks of remote work: no need to commute every day, more flexibility and control over their schedules, better work-life balance, and the ability to work from anywhere in the world.
The remote work trend is not just a North American or Western trend either – it’s global.
Workers don’t like the traditional office – but they also don’t like working at home
The reason for this is that many people struggle with the isolation (especially true for solo contractors, entrepreneurs, and freelancers) and distractions that come with only working from home (especially for parents of young kids). These people want the freedom and flexibility of remote work, but only working from home isn’t ideal for them.
The solutions for these problems don’t have mainstream adoption yet, but it’s surely only a matter of time. These include finding inspiring and flexible coworking spaces or shared offices near home or in other convenient places that allow picking a work environment that fits each remote employee the best.
The key term here is flexibility. Some days, working from home makes the most sense, and on other days you might need some social element and room for serendipity in your workday. The paradigm of using one fixed office space provided by your employer is shifting towards having more variety and personal choice over where, as a remote worker, you’re going to spend your workday.
The rise of the gig economy and becoming your own boss
Remote work is not only changing how and where we work, but it’s also blurring the lines between “work” and “life”. With remote work, people are now able to pick up gigs on the side that can supplement their income or even become their main source of income.
Remote work becoming mainstream is also fueling the growth of the gig economy, as more and more people are turning to platforms like Uber, Airbnb, Upwork and Fiverr to find supplemental income. As remote work becomes more popular, we can expect to see even more people joining the gig economy and using their skills to make money on their own terms.
Everyone’s becoming their own boss, in the form of entrepreneurship, freelancing, or investing and this trend will have a big impact on our society.
The collapse of traditional office culture
With remote work becoming more popular, we’re also seeing the collapse of traditional office culture. This is mainly a good thing, as traditional office culture is often rife with sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination.
Remote work allows people to escape the office politics and drama that often comes with working in a traditional setting. Switching to remote work is known to bring transparency into who is actually getting work done and who’s just seeming busy.
Remote work culture is often more egalitarian and supportive, as remote workers are typically judged on the quality of their work, not by how present they are in an office.
The Great Resignation
Another remote work trend that has emerged in the post-pandemic era is the so-called Great Resignation. This term refers to the large number of people who are quitting their jobs in order to work remotely (or aiming to achieve a more satisfying work-life balance).
A big reason for this trend is that people are realizing that they no longer need to be tied to an office in order to have a successful career. With remote work, they can take their work along with their special skills with them wherever they go and have more flexibility and control over their lives.
The mystical 4-day workweek is becoming a reality
4-day workweeks are becoming increasingly popular, as companies and even whole governments are experimenting with the idea. 4-day workweeks have been shown to boost productivity, improve employee satisfaction, and reduce stress levels, along with reducing absenteeism and increasing retention rates.
In addition, 4-day workweeks can help to save on costs associated with office spaces and utilities, while offering a number of environmental benefits, as they can reduce traffic congestion and pollution.
4-day workweeks are not without challenges, however, as they can require employees to work longer hours and may also cause disruptions to child care and other family obligations. Nevertheless, the benefits of a shortened workweek are too great to ignore, and we can expect to see more and more companies adopting them in the years to come.
This trend along with the mainstream adoption of remote work shows that we are moving towards a future of work that allows workers, more than ever before, to choose on their own how they balance their work and life.
Urban Exodus and the pull of location independence
Another macro trend that is driving the end of traditional office-based work is the “Urban Exodus” which means that more and more people are moving away from big cities and choosing better natural environments to live in.
People are moving to smaller towns, suburbs, and the countryside because they want to be able to afford a nicer home, have access to good schools, and live in safe and quiet neighborhoods while still maintaining their high-paying jobs. They also don’t want to be stuck in traffic for hours every day or deal with the high cost of living in big cities, if it’s not necessary for keeping their career going and has a negative impact on their happiness.
We’re also seeing a pull toward location independence, as more and more people want the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. This has led to an increase in the number of digital nomads, as well as a rise in the popularity of co-working spaces and remote retreats.
This trend is reshaping the places we consider to be “business hubs” and will definitely bring new opportunities for smaller cities and naturally beautiful areas to develop new services (co-working and co-living spaces, remote retreats, etc) for the emerging location-independent remote workforce.
The future of work is remote.