The COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of people to experiment with remote work for the first time. Now that things are going back to normal, people are wondering when they’re going to be called to return to the office.

While some companies have already recalled their employees to the traditional office environment, and others have plans to do so in the future, for the most part, remote work is here to stay.

But why is this the case?

The Benefits of Remote Work Have Become Clear

People with remote work experience have been preaching the benefits for many years. But the pandemic forced employees and employers alike to see the benefits in real-time. All over the world, the population has come to learn that remote work can:

  •         Eliminate commutes. In 2019, the average American’s commute to work was 27.6 minutes, one way. That’s nearly an hour every day spent traveling, or 5 hours per week. Working from home immediately frees up 5 hours a week, or 250 hours per year, that people can spend in much more productive ways than sitting in traffic.
  •         Reduce distractions. For many people, the office environment is chronically distracting. People are constantly making small talk with you, passing by your desk, having conversations with others, and making noise. In a remote work environment, you have total control over your surroundings – so the only interruptions and distractions you have to deal with are the ones you choose to allow.
  •         Offer personal flexibility. Remote work gives people more personal flexibility. They can often choose their own hours, spend more time with their family, and take breaks more comfortably throughout the day. Home work environments simply aren’t as rigid or restrictive.
  •         Improve productivity. Overall, remote work tends to boost productivity. People get more done in the same amount of time and achieve more for the companies they work for. It’s hard to argue with results.
  •         Boost morale and retention. People working from home have less stress, fewer distractions, and more autonomy – which leads to a surge in morale. Employees are happier, retention is up, and accordingly, everyone stands to benefit.
  •         Save money. Companies no longer have to pay thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per month to maintain a physical office presence.

More Options Are Available

Additionally, more options are available to individuals and companies that pursue remote work.

  •         Office furniture and home offices. Office furniture stores are thriving and offering more options to help people customize their home workspaces.
  •         Communication and collaboration tools. There are literally hundreds of tools specifically designed for remote communication and collaboration, making it easier for employees to connect over vast distances.
  •         Remote work infrastructure. Companies are shifting to models that support remote work naturally, making it easier to maintain a remote workforce and harder to go back to a traditional office setting.
  •         Coworking spaces and other establishments. Coworking spaces, cafés, and other businesses have grown significantly in response to growing demand for more flexible workspaces.

Change Is Hard

Change is hard for everyone. Transitioning to a fully remote work environment was incredibly difficult. Now that we’re here, it would be incredibly hard to go back. Convincing people that going back to the office is a good thing would be nearly impossible for most – and wrangling the team can prove logistically difficult.

Companies aren’t equipped to force such a major transition – and many employees are fighting hard to keep their remote work jobs.

Competition Is Fierce

An additional wrinkle is the fact that most companies are trying to preserve remote work as much as possible. If your company decides to go back to a traditional work model, you stand to upset a large percentage of your workforce; if those disgruntled employees do some research, it won’t take them long to realize that most of your competitors offer opportunities to work from home.

Due to this competitive pressure, companies are somewhat forced to continue offering remote work options. The only alternative is alienating, and potentially losing, a substantial portion of their workforce.

Obstacles Remain

Of course, remote work isn’t perfect – and some obstacles remain in its path. Working remotely often makes people feel lonely. And for some people, a traditional office environment holds them accountable and keeps them productive in a way that a home office simply can’t replicate. On top of that, some companies are hell-bent on preserving the traditional office landscape no matter what.

Still, despite these challenges, it seems overwhelmingly likely that remote work will remain a staple of the modern world for many years to come. Even if your employer tries to convert the work environment back to an office-based, traditional one, you’ll have opportunities to work from home in the future.