Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was largely a perk that businesses offered certain employees whose jobs didn’t need to be performed at a central office location. Today, it’s an expectation among a significant part of the U.S. workforce. It’s been more than a simple change: A revolution has taken place in what employees expect of their jobs and their employers. Driven by their experiences during the pandemic, workers have developed a new vision of work-life balance, and remote work is a key part of the equation.   What makes this shift so powerful and far-reaching is that it comes at a time when severe talent shortages are emboldening employees to look for greener pastures and job candidates to turn down offers that don’t give them what they want.   Beyond higher salaries, candidates desire the ability to work remotely in the long term. A recent survey by Robert Half of more than 1,000 U.S. professionals showed that half of respondents currently working from home said they would look for a new job that offers remote options if their company requires employees to return to the office full-time.   Employers, when business models allow it, are supporting a flexible work environment either 100% of the time or as a hybrid arrangement, where employees spend part of their time in the office and the rest working from home. This includes many businesses employing accounting and finance professionals (see “Managing and Building Remote Finance Teams,” Strategic Finance, October 2020).   Remote work goes hand in hand with workers’ growing desire for increased flexibility in general, not just in where they work but also when. Professionals want the right to choose their own hours and the number of days per week they work. According to further research by Robert Half, 40% of employers said they’ve missed out on a potential hire in the last year because the candidate wanted more schedule flexibility than the company could grant.   The larger question then becomes: Why does remote work work? The simplest answer is because it’s a win-win for both employees and employers.  


  Convenience can’t be underestimated as a motivator for employees. Eliminating the daily commute means they can spend more time with their families and on personal pursuits and passions. Many have found that they have much more energy and their stress levels have been dramatically reduced by not having to travel to an office.   Another factor is geography. Working remotely allows professionals to move to more affordable areas that don’t have to be within commutable distances from the employer’s office. They can move where housing costs aren’t as high, schools are better, the pace of life is less hectic, and their home is perhaps closer to family. Sixty percent of professionals responding to a Robert Half survey about job search plans said that they’re interested in finding fully remote positions at companies based in a different city or state.   Many workers are also confident that they could find a new job opportunity. In the survey, 78% of workers said they’re confident that their current skills are marketable in today’s hiring environment, and 28% said they plan to look for a new position. Remote work makes finding a new and better job even more likely as it expands the job pool. Some workers feel like now is the time to make a move, even if they’re relatively content in their current job.  


  Many companies have voiced opposition to remote work for their teams and are adamant about employees returning to the office. Yet the percentage (66%) of senior managers in a Robert Half survey about return-to-office plans who said they want their teams to work on-site full-time is down five points from a similar survey conducted in 2021. This suggests some companies have warmed up to the idea of remote and hybrid work. Indeed, for a growing number of executives, the trend represents a sizable opportunity.   For companies trying to hire during this time of talent shortages, remote work offers an incredible bonanza. Companies can now access a candidate pool that extends across the entire country—even the world. Being able to hire workers from virtually anywhere significantly raises a company’s chances of connecting with job candidates with the skills and experience the business needs most.   Remote work aids in retention as well. Being known as an employer that emphasizes flexibility for its workforce is an enormous reputation and brand booster. More and more people will want to work for—and keep working for—a company where remote workers are welcomed and supported.   Business leaders whose teams had to work remotely due to the pandemic were surprised to find that employees are as productive and effective, if not more so, when doing their jobs from home. The trust managers developed with employees has a side benefit of increasing job satisfaction and loyalty. According to a survey from University of Oxford and global consulting firm Protiviti, 95% of North American business executives believe that employee loyalty and retention will increase over the next decade. The traditional view that supervisors need to physically oversee what employees are doing was already on its way out in recent decades, but it took remote work to prove that their trust is well placed.   Business continuity during the pandemic wouldn’t have been possible without remote work. Allowing more employees to be remote is a way to become even more agile in the future and increase business resilience.   It’s no wonder that, according to the University of Oxford-Protiviti research, 80% of companies plan to hire fully or partially remote workers in 2022. In addition, 57% of C-suite executives said that allowing remote work is part of their retention and executive succession planning strategies.   More companies are deciding every day that remote work works. While some jobs will always require being in the office, remote and hybrid work are here to stay. Businesses that embrace what’s quickly becoming a key part of the future of work can significantly lessen recruitment difficulties and the loss of valued employees.  

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