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Will Your Business Keep Remote Work Long-Term?

January 30, 2021

Courtesy of Ahola Corporation

According to PwC’s June 2020 survey of 1,200 office workers who were remotely working, 72% wanted to continue working away from the office for at least two days a week, and 32% said they’d prefer never to go into the office. These statistics have huge implications for what an office will look like once the pandemic ends. Some forward-thinking companies already are hiring chief remote officers to lead the virtual work experience.

The Workforce

Even when offices do reopen, they are likely to look and feel different than the open-office layouts that were so popular before the pandemic. For one, it is likely that some employees will be back on a flexible schedule whereas others will opt to continue working remotely. For another, people who have been working from home for months are used to a certain level of independence — in the hours they work, in the clothing they wear and in the kind of space in which they work. It will take some time to re-acclimate to an office environment.

The change in where people work may affect offices in another way, too. With fewer people at the office full time, companies may have renegotiated with their landlords for a smaller space. Even if the company owns the building, the office space may be redesigned to suit employees’ expectations.

The Culture

Many companies have had to adjust their culture to embrace a remote environment. In some ways, this has been a positive change as company leaders and managers got to know their employees on a more personal level on video calls. It is hard to forget an employee whose child or pet is in the background. Pre-Covid-19 that was an anomaly. Now it is a fairly common occurrence that helps bridge the physical difference.

The Customers

This is a difficult time for companies, particularly those that serve distressed industries. Many companies have successfully pivoted so they can survive over the long term. Restaurant suppliers, for example, started selling to grocery stores and the general public. They have gotten creative and launched e-commerce sites on social media and through their websites. No one knows which of these changes will sustain over the long-term, and business models are continuing to evolve.

What has become clear is that brand loyalty has shifted. An August 2020 McKinsey survey found that 75% of consumers have altered their brand preferences, with many people shifting to private label brands. These trends likely are the result of supply chain disruptions, but they provide opportunities for companies like restaurant suppliers whose survival depends on finding new constituencies. Finding the right marketing mix and providing the right client experience to connect with customers virtually is a continuing challenge for all businesses.

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