The State of Remote Work in 2021 & 2022

When the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the globe in early 2020, it forced business owners to adapt in ways like never before. To keep employees safe, working from home became the “new normal.” The pandemic proved that employees could work remotely and continue to be productive. According to a survey of business executives in the U.S., remote work productivity was 7 percent higher than they expected, on average. 

However, we’re now at a turning point where many employers are still trying to figure out how and where employees want to work in this “new normal”. Today we’ll discuss how employees feel about working remotely vs. working in the office and what trends to look out for in remote work in the future.

The Current State of Remote Work

How has remote work changed since the beginning of the pandemic almost two years ago?

1. Remote and Flexible Work is Not a Trend—It’s Here to Stay

In a PwC survey of U.S. executives, only 19% had plans to work entirely in-person for fall 2021. The majority of the rest of the respondents, nearly 73%, implemented or were planning to implement some kind of hybrid or remote working policy.

Graph displaying company plans for remote work for fall 2021

2. Employees Want Flexibility

Generally speaking, most workers value flexibility in the workplace. Though it may seem like most employees only want to work remotely, preferences vary. 22 percent of employees surveyed in the PwC US Pulse Survey would prefer to be in the office almost entirely, while over 44% said they would rather work remotely at least three days per week.

Graph displaying U.S. employees' desires for remote work

Why is flexibility important to these workers? Although there are many reasons why employees want flexible work arrangements, the most common reasons include an improved work-life balance, saving money and time on commutes, increased productivity levels while working remotely, caregiving and childcare concerns, and remote work contributing to a happier and more engaged work life.

The desire for more flexible work arrangements by employees has also been a big driver in the “Great Resignation” of 2021. Americans have been quitting their jobs at an abnormally high rate since early 2021. Resignations peaked in April and have stayed at consistent levels since. “As pandemic life recedes in the U.S., people are leaving their jobs in search of more money, more flexibility, and more happiness,” writes Andrea Hsu of NPR

Both current employees and those in the market for a new opportunity now expect employers to accommodate this desire for workplace flexibility.

3. Working Remotely Has Made an Impact on Employees

Remote work can be a very positive experience for employees, but it can also be very stressful and draining. Many employees working from home experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, as well as a sense of overwork.

Apart from these impacts, many employees also feel they lack the necessary equipment at home to do their jobs adequately.

So, What Does This All Mean For Business Owners?

Listening to what your employees value and how that affects you as a business owner is important, but can also feel overwhelming. As mentioned earlier, workers have differing ideas of what an ideal work environment looks like. Some are on board with a completely remote setup, others would rather come into the office every day, and some envision a mix of both being the most successful for them.

So, what can you do to make accommodating these varying ideals easier?

  • Provide the appropriate tools: What do your employees need to make a flexible work environment successful? Is your organization set up to support workers connecting from various locations or servicing clients from different locations? This is a breeze with a cloud-based agency management system such as AgencyBloc, which is accessible anywhere, anytime. (Check out this blog post to see how an AMS can be a benefit to every department at your agency!)
  • Foster two-way communication with your employees: Have you asked your employees what it is that they want? Don’t assume that your employees feel a certain way about their work environment. Survey or poll your workers to gauge their feelings and then devise a plan based on their feedback.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things: If a new method or idea comes up, try it on a trial basis. The results might surprise you. Define some key metrics to track throughout the trial period to help measure how successful it was.
  • Set clear guidelines and expectations: When employees don’t have a clear roadmap and know what’s expected of them, it can lead to uncertainty. Employees can perform their jobs more effectively when the direction is clear.
  • Check-in and change as necessary: A flexible work environment isn’t something you can set and forget. Check in with your workers to see if their feelings about their arrangement have changed. Based on their feedback, you can adjust as necessary.

What Does This Mean for Benefits Agencies?

As an agency, you want to make sure you’re providing your clients with the best possible benefits options for their employees, which also means taking these new trends into account. Here are some things to keep in mind to give your clients the best experience:

Employees Want Improved Flexibility, Benefits, and Compensation 

Many employers are focusing on updated company culture and value changes, but is that what employees want most? Research says no. A PwC survey found that schedule flexibility, expanded benefits, and compensation changes were most desired by workers. Your employer clients may want to consider taking a look at the benefits they offer and see if there are more options they can provide that their employees would value.

Increased Value Placed Upon Mental Health Resources

In early 2020, remote work became a necessity to keep employees safe and to stop the spread of COVID-19, but along with that came other challenges. Some remote workers have reported increased anxiety and depression levels as a result of working from home. But remote work aside, the newest generations place more importance on employer-provided mental health resources than past generations. Almost 60% of Gen Z respondents in a recent McKinsey study said that access to mental health resources was an important deciding factor when choosing or determining to stay with an employer.

Virtual Options Will Become More Essential

It’s become clear that the virtual side of our lives is here to stay. According to McKinsey, telehealth usage has increased 38 times compared to pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, virtual therapy and counseling services like Talkspace and BetterHelp have exploded in popularity since the beginning of the pandemic. Having access to these types of online services will only be more desired by employees everywhere.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way we work in unprecedented ways, especially when it comes to what employees value in their employers and the benefits they provide. Benefits agencies and business owners alike must understand these desires and adjust accordingly. Having the right technology partner to overcome these challenges can make all the difference.

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Posted by Sarah Rosonke on Tuesday, December 7, 2021 in Customer & Policy Management

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About The Author

Sarah Rosonke

Sarah is the Design and Content Specialist at AgencyBloc. She creates and designs helpful resources to support life and health insurance agencies in growing and automating their business. Favorite quote: "You'll never do a whole lot unless you're brave enough to try." —Dol ... read more