When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, remote work exploded, as 54% of organizations around the world modified roles to be remote-capable2. The number of employees working from home multiplied worldwide, and the amount of time Americans typically spent working at home surged from 5% to 60%3. This unexpected global health event permanently shifted the dynamics of everyday workplace culture. At the time, nobody knew how long it would last.
Yet even before the pandemic hit, remote work was on the rise. In April 2020, O.C. Tanner’s Rise of the Remote Worker webinar shared the statistic that work from home had experienced a 10% growth rate every year over the previous 10 years4. The difference in 2020 was that almost all organizations had to figure out how a large portion of their workforce could work remotely, yet somehow stay productive and connected to their coworkers until it was safe to return to regular office settings.
Employers soon discovered that moving employees to off-site work was not as easy as flipping a switch. Practically speaking, only certain types of jobs could be performed away from a business office or work facility. Businesses worldwide had to identify which roles or teams could carry out their work from a distance, and then orchestrate a transition.
A study by McKinsey Global Institute found that only 20%–25% of the workforces in advanced economies could work from home, between three and five days a week. But even those numbers represented four to five times more remote work than before the pandemic5.
The increasing dynamic of work from home created new challenges, and organizations wrestled with how to work efficiently as some departments worked remotely and others—such as front-line employees, production workers, or warehouse staff—remained on site.
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