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.
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.