Report Suggests Government, Companies Factor Permanent Remote Work into Future Operations


Remote work may be here to stay for a sizable chunk of the U.S. workforce.

A report by Forrester indicates more than 53% of the U.S. workforce would like to continue working remotely—at least some—once the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Released Nov. 17, the report found fewer Americans (44%) are eager to return to daily office life and mirrors a recent survey of federal employees who expect at least regular telework to continue into the foreseeable future.

Agencies and companies, Forrester states, would be wise to augment their existing workforce strategies to meet the expectations of their collective workforces.

“Rather than assume that centralized locations are the best way to engage workers and provide those outcomes, the anywhere-work approach recognizes that people—employees, prospective talent, managers, and other stakeholders—all have preferences that, post-pandemic, will break the traditional definition of and boundary between in-office and home-based work,” the report states.

The report makes clear not every employee will be able to work from home. According to Forrester, approximately 18.2 million U.S. workers will be permanent home workers post-pandemic, which equates to about 12% of the total U.S. workforce. Employers—government or otherwise—should put significant effort into deciding which employees make the most sense to work remotely.

One of the report’s authors, Forrester vice president and principal analyst James McQuivey, told Nextgov federal agencies may be more challenged to rethink their remote work strategies. 

“The challenge we’re seeing among government clients is that whereas a for-profit company can take a moment and rethink strategy and think, ‘maybe we need more people working remotely,’ essentially in the government, it will come down to some mandate where someone says ‘yes you do’ or ‘no you don’t’ need to enable people to work at home in the long run,” McQuivey said. 

McQuivey added that culture shifts can be more challenging in government agencies, which also have to be conscious of technology, security and management changes that come with remote work. Historically, public sector managers “just want to see their employees in person.”

Organizations, too, should make use of the coronavirus’ continued presence to make changes more urgently than they otherwise might. Various models exist to make use of—mostly office work, a mix of office and remote work and primarily remote work. 

The timing may be right to consider long-term remote operations. In the Washington, D.C. area, most employers expect to work remotely through at least the summer, and with coronavirus cases spiking to all-time territory across the nation, office reopenings are likely to push back further even if a vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, remote work has its own cons. Multiple surveys indicate sizable portions of the workforce face anxiety and loneliness working remotely, and more than half of tech employees believe prolonged remote operations are hurting their career progressions.