Karina & Alex

Will the Future of Work be at Dunder Mifflin or in The Cloud?

Whether you are Team Schrute Farms (work from home) or Team Dunder Mifflin (return to office), one thing is true—the pandemic has created an earthquake of change for the future of work.

The world is in the grips of topsy and turvy—ongoing supply chain issues, inflation, looming fears of a recession, and a still competitive job market.

Amid the up and down maelstrom, many of us wonder: What’s next? Will people continue to work remotely moving forward? Will that change if there is an economic downturn? 

On the side of Team Schrute Farms (WFH), data indicates that the writing is on the wall—remote work is here to stay. According to projections by data scientists at Ladders (who have been assiduously tracking remote work opportunities among North America’s 50,000 top employers since the beginning of the pandemic), 25% of all professional jobs in the United States and Canada will be fully remote by the end of the year— and remote opportunities will continue increasing through 2023. Thank the pandemic for the paradigm shift: just under 4% of high-paying jobs were remote before March 2020, rising to 9% by the end of 2020 and more than 15% today.

Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella shared that “this change in working arrangements is impossible to overhype…it’s even bigger than people think.” He added that it is the largest societal change in the United States since the end of World War II. “Hiring practices typically move at a glacial pace, but the pandemic turned up the heat, so we’re seeing a rapid flood of change in this space. It’s really rather amazing.”

74% of workers polled in the 2021 State of Remote Work Report from Owl Labs said WFH is better for their mental health. And 84% shared that working remotely after the pandemic would make them happier— 71% of workers want hybrid or remote work once the pandemic is “done.” According to Ragu Bhargava, CEO of Global Upside, those who view remote work as temporary or “unorthodox” instead of as a complete transformation in how we work are stuck in the old paradigm of work. They risk losing staff and will fail to be as competitive as the state of work evolves around and past them. The tight job market has made this an opportune time for workers to assert their wishes. According to Gallup, 54% of employees working from home say they would look for another job if forced to RTO full time. But will that change if the economy slows? Maybe. Maybe not.

Business leaders on the other side of this issue (team Dunder Mifflin RTO) rightfully argue that while the advantages of remote work are obvious—no traffic-clogged commutes (especially with gas prices in sky-high flux) and better work/life balance—WFH also threatens to depress economic output long term and deprive young people of crucial on-the-job training. While those in their career’s mid or later stages are less vulnerable, Harvard economists Edward Glaeser and David Cutler assert that fully remote employees are half as likely to be promoted and believe it is a myth to think that more entry-level employees can acquire needed skills if they cannot interact with more seasoned workers on the job – 78% of those polled in the State of Remote Work 2021 Report by Owl Labs say that they feel more included when at the office.

The rise in remote work the past 2 years from our view at Madison Wells has represented an earthquake of change in talent acquisition, with much more efficient interview journeys, more reliable scheduling, and stronger interview panels which has led to successful outcomes. As well, candidates and employers have reported to us that they are rethinking work and home lives – it all suggests massive changes in how we will work and live going forward – what should physical offices look like if most every employee has a hybrid feature to their schedule? The future design of homes might reflect employees that are working from home most of the time. The State of Remote Work Report indicates that only 38% of employers have rewired their offices to reflect the tech needs of this new way of working. As well, companies that have abandoned their offices and committed to fully remote are deploying their office expense capital into quarterly and, or bi-annual extended company retreats.

Ultimately, would you rather be on the side of Dunder Mifflin RTO or Schrute farms WFH?! Regardless, this much is true, the calculus has changed, there is a redefinition of work life afoot, and the hopeful future outcome (whether it be hybrid, fully remote, or in-office) will be more meaningful, purposeful, efficient working lives and abundant opportunity no matter your location.