The office is dead

Forget the ongoing debate about remote work or hybrid workplaces. It's time to proclaim: "Long live working from home."

Elon Musk didn't make many friends when he took over Twitter, but some bosses liked that he banned remote work.

Too bad he's already backed off that idea. When Twitter was evicted from its Seattle offices because Musk was no longer paying rent, he told Twitter's Washington state workers they now had to work from home.

Yes, leaders stuck in the 20th century want everyone back in their office warrens and cube farms, but workers aren't having it. And they're the ones with the upper hand in today's tight job market.

Yes, according to one survey, 90% of business leaders want their employees back in the office. (And I want a 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS 450+ Sedan or a pony. But neither of us is likely to get what we want.)

As Bloomberg recently reported, "Job openings are at a historic high." Now is not the time to discourage would-be employees.

According to Zippia, a job company, "68% of Americans would prefer to be fully remote." It's not just people in the US. The BBC reports that today's office work week is now Tuesday to Thursday.

If you look closer at the data, you'll find, as Gartner has, that we're entering a "permanent era of hybrid work for desk-based employees."

In addition, as Robert Boersma, Talent.com's vice president of operations in North America, recently wrote: "Most employees do not want to feel tethered to their desks for eight hours per day after experiencing the openness of remote work. With the world returning to "normal" after two years at home, employees are not ready to give up the elements that have dramatically improved their quality of life in favor of returning to the office five days a week."

Instead, "we will continue to see hybrid work environments being adopted by organizations, allowing employees to have the freedom and independence of remote work that they enjoy while also providing teams with the opportunity for in-person facetime and collaboration in the office," Boersma said.

Another interesting look at the shift to working from home and hybrid work comes from Stanford Economics Professor and work-from-home expert Nick Bloom, who tweeted, "Public transit journeys [are] stabilizing at 35% below 2019 levels.

It's not just local travel. Business travel expert Gary Leff wrote: "There's an equilibrium developing where substantially more jobs are done from home than before the pandemic. We aren't going fully back to the office. That means there's a lot of business travel which no longer makes sense."

What does all that mean for a typical business owner?

First, embrace working from home. It's simply how work will be done from now on. This will be true for a significant minority of office workers, if not a majority.

That means, in turn, it's time to get rid of expensive office real estate.

There's no point in investing in high-cost space in Manhattan or the Bay area if you're not using them.

It's not just rent; you can also save money on utilities and parking — even, it seems, toilet paper, based on reports coming out of Twitter!

Instead, rent office space in hub cities such as Atlanta, Denver, or Chicago. That way, you can cut your travel and real estate costs when you want to get everyone together.

While you're at it, invest in fast Internet for all your employees. You might not like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, but it's how we do business meetings today.

In addition, good cameras and audio gear will be more critical in the months and years ahead than paying for business-class airline tickets.

You should also invest in technologies that can make people more productive from home. For example, do you need minutes from your online meetings? You can type them out by hand or do what I do and use Otter.ai for affordable, good-quality voice transcription.

Sometimes you still need people to do the jobs that oil the gears of work.

For that, consider using virtual assistants. No, there aren't any tech virtual assistants yet that I can recommend — but it makes sense to keep an eye on where AI chatbots such as ChatGPT are going.

In addition, using freelancers to set up schedules, arrange conferences, and do bookkeeping can save you money.

And, again, these people do not need to be in your office.

When you add up all the advantages, I think you'll find that your business will do far better in 2023 by cooperating with the work-from-home and hybrid-work trends than trying to fight them. At the end of the day, it's all about making money from running an efficient business with happy workers.

Get with the program and let go of the past.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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