5 Reasons Companies Are Not Making Remote Work Permanent

About midway through 2020, we have been inundated with headlines like “Remote Work Is Here To Stay” or “The Brick And Mortar Office Is Dead.” Many CEOs have seen the benefits of remote work. Not only are you saving money on a costly lease and office expenses, but it can also be massively beneficial to your company’s overall success. Recent research from Catalyst – a nonprofit backed by many of the world’s leading CEOs – shows that remote work can increase innovation by 63%, work engagement by 75%, and organizational commitment by 68%. If workers are more innovative, productive, and engaged while working remotely, why are some CEOs slow to make a remote work permanent?

For every headline celebrating remote work, there are articles about CEOs and leaders who are resistant to the change. Some of these reasons are perfectly valid. Some professions suffer without in-person collaboration and communication. However, other justifications for returning to the office may be flimsy. If you’re unsure whether a permanent remote workspace is right for your company, it’s time you sat down and really considered the root of that sentiment.

They Have A Large Lease To Justify

Renting office space isn’t cheap – especially with real estate prices rising across the country. In fact, average office lease rates have increased 1.4% year-over-year. If you’re paying five figures or more a month for a cushy downtown office, it’s understandable you want to get the most out of your money, lest your office space becomes as extraneous an expense as the gym membership you use twice a month.

However, is it really worth all that extra money? If a company can function 100% remotely, you may be better off saving potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars per year by simply letting that lease expire. 

Management Has Not Grown With The Times

Unfortunately, many managers have adopted a rigid, at-times myopic approach to management. The “this-is-how-it’s-always-been-done” mentality is regrettably common in many offices. As reporting to a brick-and-mortar building was the norm for decades, many managers have convinced themselves that in-person is always the preferable option.

It is best to keep in-person work in place in some cases (more on that in the next section). However, many businesses can thrive in a hybrid or 100% remote setting. We must remember that the office structure did not necessarily evolve because it was the best way to get work done. After the industrial revolution, factories had to be centered around a source of power, hence the birth of what would eventually evolve into modern office spaces. Now that we no longer need to congregate around the same power source, is it essential to have employees in the office every day?   

We are in the midst of a new shift in workplace structure, with many companies feeling the benefits of office work do not quite outweigh the drawbacks. The office structure may seem largely dated in a few decades, with remote work being the norm.

Their Work Really Does Need To Be In Person

Sometimes, staying remote simply isn’t tenable. There are obvious cases – like manufacturing plants, fulfillment centers, and grocery stores. While remote learning is possible, most research indicates it is not in children’s best interest as a long-term option.

Some companies can function remotely but tend to work out better in an office setting. For client-facing jobs, sales, inventing, and so on, the ability to be in the same place at the same time is ideal. Therefore, these businesses may opt not to make remote work permanent.

If you are truly unable to offer full-time remote work, explore a hybrid structure or offer perks to compensate for the commute. Can you give employees a free bus pass or a gas stipend? That will go a long way to keeping morale high as you return to the office.

Ongoing COVID Concerns

The pandemic has felt like one-step-forward, two-steps-back for the third consecutive year now. While cases, hospitalizations, and deaths appear to be on the decline, it’s unclear what we’ll face in the future if new strains emerge. Therefore, some companies are hesitant to make any permanent decisions now.

While some businesses do not necessarily need to be in-office to function, in-person collaboration may have certain benefits. If a job entails loads of face-to-face meetings and plenty of teamwork, for example, an office may feel preferable for the higher-ups. However, ongoing COVID concerns may be a reason not to make the full transition yet.

A lot of companies are still playing the waiting game. They’re not quite ready to close the doors of their brick and mortars permanently, at least not until it’s clear how and when the pandemic will wind down.

Command And Control Management 

Command and Control Management is a managerial style based on strict authority, formal controls, and output statistics as a measure of success. CEOs who manage their team in this fashion may be hesitant to make remote work permanent as they will not be able to directly supervise employees to ensure they’re following standard protocol in terms of when and how they’re doing their job. While higher-ups may associate Command And Control Management with tough love that encourages high performance, employees associate it with micromanaging and a lack of respect. So, if this is your management style, it might be time to reconsider – whether you’re returning to the office or not.  

Inc. declared Command and Control Leadership dead as early as 2019. It was vastly more fashionable at a time when employees were expected to spend their whole careers within a single position – which is no longer the case. Job hopping has become the norm, so employee retention is increasingly challenging. These days, you’ll have better luck allowing employees to use their judgment, welcome their feedback, and grant some flexibility in how work is done. In the midst of The Great Resignation – with employees having no qualms about simply stepping down if they’re not loving your managerial tactics, a gentler, more transparent approach may increase employee retention and morale.

The Bottom Line

While not every CEO is ready to make the shift, the future appears to be moving toward primarily remote or hybrid office structures. It is better for productivity, profit, and worker morale. If you can function in a remote setting, we highly recommend preparing to make the remote work permanent in the coming years.