A Remote Work Tipping Point is a moment of critical change in technology, work, life, or society that has a “significant and often unstoppable” effect on how and where we work.
The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic of 2020 was a remote work tipping point.
Prior to this time period, the vast majority of people had the mindset that work needs to happen in a central office. Now, many people and organizations no longer really look at offices in the same way. “Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has many employees planning to work in a way that they hadn’t previously considered.”
Characteristics of a Remote Work Tipping Point
By 2020, remote work had been possible for roughly 41 years. Like many changes previously, the adoption of remote work was slow and required many other drivers such as technology, work, real estate, legal, office, government, societal, and cultural changes. Even a few months before the tipping point, during 2019, the number of remote workers was still at a relatively low number compared to the majority of employees who primarily worked in a central office.
The remote work tipping point allowed for barriers and objections to be broken that otherwise would have remained, hindering change, for a much longer period of time.
Implications of this Tipping Point
Note: I have found that remote work (work from home, teleworking, telecommuting) statistics often don’t tell the whole story, however, I believe it is important to feature a few to further demonstrate the impact of this tipping point on how and where we work.
- Based on a Gartner survey of HR Leaders in 2020, “30% of employees surveyed worked remotely at least part of the time before” and “41% of employees were likely to work remotely at least some of the time” after.
Based on this, an additional 11% of all employees will likely work outside of the central office a portion of the week.
- At the same time, a separate survey of CFO and Finance Leaders resulted in findings that “74% (of organizations) will move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID 19”.
The impact of 74% of organizations permanently keeping at least 5% of their workforce working remotely is enormous and could result in a 2x, 3x, or more growth in remote work from before the tipping point.
- In another remote work study by getabstract in 2020, respondents stated that moving forward:
- 42.67% wanted to work remotely more of the time
- 12.37% wanted to work in the office more of the time
- 34.67% wanted their previous schedule.
It is important to point out that over 12% preferred to work more out of the office in the future. The remote work tipping point does not mean that all people will want to work remote now or in the future. Although many employees will return to the office, the overwhelming impact of the tipping point moving forward is that many more employees than ever before will continue to work at least some of the time outside of a central office.
- Global Workplace Analytics also released a Work from Home Experience Study in 2020, that said “77% of employees want(ed) to continue working from home at least once a week. 16% don’t want to come back to the office at all. Only 6% say they don’t want to work from home in the future.”
There are many studies and surveys being done about remote work and whichever numbers end up being most similar to actual is unclear. However, it is clear that remote work has made a profound impact on individuals, organizations, and governments adoption of remote and alternative ways of working that had not been considered in the past by many.
Assuming that technology, process, policy, and training investments continue to be made by organizations and governments, the rate of long term adoption of remote work will also increase in comparison to the incremental growth of the past.
Moving forward, we will also continue to see deeper changes in business, where and how we live, the way cities develop, public transportation, traffic, health, and many other aspects of our lives as more people work at a distance from their teams and central offices some of the time.
When is the next Remote Work Tipping Point?
Of course we don’t know 100%. However, the next moment of critical change and remote work tipping point will likely result from dramatic improvements to augmented or virtual reality technology or the next pandemic / natural disaster. I would hope that more proactive changes such as further government or organization support will create the next tipping point, however, those changes will likely just incrementally increase the speed of adoption as compared to the past.
What are you seeing in your workplace and organization? How has this tipping point changed the future of your organization? Contact me about your remote work experience.