If you’ve wondered how many people have been able to actually work from home through the COVID-19 pandemic, then research shows that it’s close to 40 percent. Around 41 percent of full-time jobs can be done from home and around 35 percent of part-time work. Why is this important?

Because it points to what might happen in a post-pandemic future. Basically, because so many people have been able to work from home, the work from home culture will become a general cultural shift, and people won’t return to the office any longer.

Remote working trends

The highly respected analyst firm, Gartner, has determined that following the pandemic 41 percent of employees that are currently working remotely will continue to do so. Some will adopt a “hybrid” system where they come into the office on some (but not all) days, while others will simply stay at home all the time.

Why would businesses allow them to do that? Because other research also shows that remote working results in a gain in productivity. So it’s good for the business, and the preferred way to work for almost half of the professionals.

Offices will reopen post-pandemic for those that enjoy the office experience, but culturally, COVID-19 has already driven a level of comfort in employees functioning outside of the office environment, and that shift seems permanent.

The challenges of remote work

It’s not the case that all employees will be able to continue working this way, even if they are currently. Demographically, statistics show that a low percentage of younger employees, in particular, have the capacity to work from home.

There are a number of reasons for this; junior staff typically need supervision, and while video conferencing tools can assist or offer a short-term solution to this, it becomes difficult for juniors to develop their career without the kind of mentorship available when working in an office.

Additionally, younger people tend to be more “hands-on” in their work, while more senior management staff are more involved in the strategic decision making and back-end management of the organization (which is easier to do remotely).

Other people simply won’t want to continue remote work when it’s not necessary. While COVID-19 has been a stressful experience for everyone, one of the lighter sides of it has been in sharing stories about how distracting, undisciplined, and disruptive the home environment can be, and while those are fun, there is a seed of truth in there.

Remote workers benefit from a more flexible understanding with work – rather than clocking on and off at specific times, managers and bosses tend to adopt a more “results”-focused policy – i.e. as long as the work gets done then it doesn’t matter when it happens.

This does mean that people can juggle fitness, housekeeping, children, and work during the day, but it also tends to mean those same people work deep into the evening. One report found that many professionals were adding as many as 3-4 extra hours of work per day while remote during COVID-19.

Finding the right balance

A lot is being said about the “new normal,” where workplaces are more flexible, fluid, and as many as half of the organization is tapping in from the home office. What this new normal also requires is a different look at how people work and interact with their place of employment.

People who want to work from home will need to make sure that they are able to establish a home office that is as distraction-free as possible. They will also need to work with their employer to establish reasonable expectations for work done, and while flexibility is key to successful remote working practices, it can’t be at the risk of burnout and the individual’s health.

There also needs to be adequate transparency and accountability built-in, and it’s important to develop a way that the individual can still feel like they’re part of the organization’s social structure and able to interact with the team.

Felix Yim is the founder of Society of Speed, an automotive journal covering the unique lifestyle of supercar owners. Alongside automotive journalism, Felix recently graduated from university with a finance degree and enjoys helping students and other young founders grow their projects.

Working from home stock photo by LightField Studios/Shutterstock