Why Many More Employees Will Soon Be Working from Home

It is a future trend that will hit many organizations unprepared. While there is nothing new about employees working from home or other remote sites, the magnitude of the shift will likely catch many leaders of organizations off guard.

The reality is that this trend has been masked for several years by the extremely high unemployment rate. And the Millennials, the generation that would lead the trend of working from home, have an abysmally high unemployment rate of 13 percent.

The aberrantly high unemployment rate means that employers have a large number of people who want to work. The employer, at least for a season, does not have to accommodate employees who would prefer different work environments and expectations.

The Change Is Coming

But get ready for a huge shift when the employment rate is at more normal historical levels. Get ready for different expectations of Millennial employees of their employers. Those organizations that think they can hire and retain as they have in the past will have a rude awakening.

Change is coming.

Some Eye Popping Numbers

Ariel Schwartz noted in Fast Company several statistical wake-up calls for the changing look of the workplace. Here are a few of them:

  • In 2020 (hard to believe how close that date is), 29 percent of office workers will work remotely, with the largest of that number working from home.
  • Already 24 percent of organizations are changing the way their offices look to accommodate a more mobile workforce. They are adapting to and preparing for that more mobile workforce.
  • Of the 24 percent noted above, 96 percent are redesigning office space to reflect greater flexibility and collaboration. These redesigned spaces recognize that an employee who is in the office today may not be in the office the next three days.
  • An amazing 83 percent of organizations allow employees to bring their own digital devices to use in the workplace. Desktop computers are becoming less and less common.

Finding Ways to Make It Work

Many years ago (I’m really showing my age), I shared with a leader in my organization some research that pointed to computer use becoming pervasive in the spaces of every office employee. He stubbornly replied to me that he would fight that reality and win.

He lost.

There are indeed legitimate concerns about a home-based workforce. Though we have all the necessary technology to connect from remote places, many leaders worry about a lack of accountability and losing the value of in-the-room collaboration. But, if current trends continue, we will waste our time fighting the trend. Instead we must find ways to work better and more productively with both off-site and on-site workers.

The likely future is a hybrid of office workers and remote workers, many of whom will be home workers. And that likely future will accelerate with the Millennial generation once the unemployment rate declines to more normative levels. What is your organization doing to prepare for this future? How will the office space change? What will be the best ways to engender accountability? How will leaders guide those who are in the office one day and out the next?

And though the Millennials will lead this change, other generational members will join as well. Leaders can choose to resist the upcoming changes and expend much leadership energy and resources. Or they can seek to be strategic and wise in adapting to this growing reality. Those leaders who do so will likely lead organizations that attract and retain the best and most productive employees.

Posted on October 1, 2012

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • I am truly thankful to the owner of this website who has shared
    this wonderful article at at this place.

  • Steve Tanner says on

    I am a Director of Missions for a rural association just north of Jefferson City Missouri. From the time I came seven years ago I have purposefully chosen to work at an office in my home. I requested to use some of the money saved by closinig the physical office to equip me with some tools such as the iphone and ipad and an effective desk top. Studies had shown that in the two years prior to my coming only two pastors had visited the physical office. I have been given a budget to be able to take the pastors out to lunch. I go to them which has been extremely effective enabling me to be to them what I need to be. We are working hard on using our electronic tool such as our newsletter, a web site, facebook. We are now working to conduct our team meetings via google. The minimizing of time for team meetings and being more productive has allowed us to use time for executive board meetings and our annual meeting for fellowship and encouragement timm. This is getting long thanks for thed article.

  • Jason Adams says on

    I am currently bi-vocational and have been a “W@H” (Work at Home) associate with a large corporation for over 5 years. I’ve been on the “out of sight, out of mind” side when I was laid off in late 2009, only to return in early 2010 when the budgets were recovered.
    In this volatile economy, organizations are more likely to allow a W@H environment, as it reduces the need for office space (and thus, lowers expenses). However, from what I have and am seeing, organizational loyalty (on both sides of the relationship) is consistently lowering.
    Two things we need to be aware of with the growth of home offices and remote working (some may still call it “telecommuting”) – 1). It offers many a work-life balance that at times may prevent the need for after-school care and reduces travel expenses, thus creating a “happier” employee; 2). It creates an environment where the employee doesn’t have that “break” from the work life, as the work life is in the next room from the home life, and thus requires discipline to “step away” for a time to recharge.
    Not surprisingly, it’s prioritization that remains the driver in this shift – employees want “freedom” (or what they perceive to be freedom); organizations want lowered expenses and happier employees (which translates to more productive). The question is this – how do organizations (including churches, para-churches, and non-profits) stay current and flexible in their structure in order to meet the “demands” of the millennial associate?

  • If American workers continue to face rising fuel prices and while their employers see profits flatlined it seems some companies may be forced toward this choice as a means of offsettings employee costs of living.

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Good point Craig.

  • Craig Hardee says on

    One of the dangers from working from home for a large organization is the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome. I have seen many friends gladly take the opportunity to work from home, only to be the first to be laid off when job cuts come. This is not only from secular organizations, but also from my state convention.