2020 was a bit of wild ride, which may be an early frontrunner for understatement of the year. Ask someone about COVID-19, work from home, or just 2020 in general and people will either say everything felt like it happened so fast or that last year felt about 5-years long. One thing everyone can agree on is that 2020 is a year best left in the past.

However, many of the trends kickstarted in 2020 are likely going to continue through 2021 and beyond. Perhaps the biggest trend of all is the work from home trend. The number of people who work from home more than doubled in just one month as the first lockdowns in the Spring of 2020 were getting underway. Vaccine distribution provides a light at the end of the tunnel but it could still be until the end of the year until everyone is vaccinated. This likely means work from home is here to stay for many, at least for the foreseeable future.

Here are the 2021 forecast for work from home trends that employers and employees should be aware of.

Temporary Arrangements Become Permanent

Back in March of 2020 when many people were sent scrambling home with their laptops, work from home was meant to be a temporary solution to help reduce the risk of virus spread. As the months dragged on, working from home continued for many businesses. COVID-19 cases exploded in the fall across Canada, prompting further lockdowns, and extending the “temporary” work from home arrangements so many people had been adhering to for months already.

Even after virus case numbers settle down, and everyone who wants to be vaccinated is able to do so; many companies may shift to a permanent work from home model. There are a few major reasons for the expansion of this remote work trend.

First, productivity is up. In fact, one study suggests an increase in productivity of 47%. That’s no small number for companies that are fighting to stay alive during the economic and logistical challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found employees are starting work earlier and working later. This could possibly be due to the fact no one is commuting. Logging in to send some emails 15 minutes before office hours pales in comparison to a half hour commute. In addition, more people are using efficient communication methods like email and video chat that allows them to make the most of their time on the clock.

Secondly, many employees enjoy working from home. Some estimates suggest the average two income household can save $4,000 per year by working from home. This is due to reduced commuting costs, reduced vehicle insurance expenses, as well as any number of other expenses necessary to get from home to the office. Canadians working from home can also claim expenses like internet costs, a portion of their mortgage interest, and heating costs on their tax return. Plus, there’s the flexibility offered by working from home. Saving an hour or more each day just by not commuting increases happiness and allows for more family time, time to go to the gym, or time to run those pesky errands.

Location, Location, Location… Not Anymore

For many people, where they worked was a major determination of where they lived. No one enjoys making a long trek to work. The location of the office also partially determined who a business could hire. With remote work, employees and businesses are able to expand their horizons. For employees, this means the leash to the office can be loosened a little bit. Perhaps they can move out of the city to a smaller community with a lower cost of living.

From the standpoint of businesses, this increases the pool of potential hires moving forward. They are no longer limited to the talent pool in their immediate area. If the best candidate lives a few hours away, they are just as valuable as someone who lives down the street. This also means businesses can reduce moving expenses for moving around talent to fill roles.

Digital Transformation Accelerated

The move toward a more digital workplace has been ongoing. The COVID-19 pandemic and work from home trends has put that transition into overdrive. Almost every 2021 forecast for businesses suggests a deeper focus on digital transformation. This includes everything from cloud-based services to video conferencing to productivity enhancements designed for the digital age.

Businesses and employees have proven to be resilient in the face of countless challenges. As things slowly begin to return to something resembling normal, there are some transformations that will continue. A focus on digital solutions to improve efficiency and future-proof businesses is something that will remain long after the pandemic has run its course.

Is Your Business Ready?

Our 2021 forecast predicts big changes when it comes to working from home. Remote work will continue throughout the year and beyond. Is your business ready to adapt and make the most of these new opportunities?

To learn more about the products and solutions available to improve productivity, embrace the digital transformation, and enable remote workers to do their best work, contact First Phase Data today.