Working from home (WFH) is one of the major long-term economic and cultural shifts that will be with us long after the pandemic. Initially forced by COVID-19 to implement WFH policies, many companies are now making WFH a permanent option, including Facebook and Twitter.
WFH could have a major impact on commercial real estate, urban planning, local retail and restaurants and many other aspects of American society and the economy, including marketing.
WFH: higher productivity, stress. Contrary to the expectations of some managers, remote employees are statistically more productive than in the office. For example, a large Stanford behavioral study, published in 2017, found that WFH employees were considerably more productive than in-office workers. However, workers sometimes report the office is a more productive environment.
Removing the boundaries around work – such as morning and afternoon commutes – allows employees to work more efficiently, and just plain work more. Indeed, during the pandemic many workers report working more hours than before it began. That has led many to feel stressed, fatigued and even burned out.
According to a recent survey from professional social network Fishbowl of more than 16,000 WFH employees, just under 69% said they were burned out on working from home.
Slicing the data by industry, tech workers (74%) and those in advertising/marketing (73%) lead others in saying yes to the question, “Has working from home during the pandemic caused you to experience workplace burnout?” Women said “yes” in slightly higher numbers than men according to the survey.
Fleeing jobs and high-cost cities. In turn, WFH burnout is causing many people to look for other jobs. Advertising (44%), healthcare (43%) and finance (42%) were the top three fields where people said burnout was driving them out of their current companies. Interestingly there was a nearly 30-point gap between the incidence of burnout and those searching for new jobs — meaning lots of people are burned out but aren’t addressing it with a job search.
A related Fishbowl survey, of 18,000 workers across companies, found that WFH was motivating a substantial number of them to move or consider moving from high-cost urban centers to lower-rent locations. Just over 43% of survey respondents in the top 50 markets expressed a desire to move to a less expensive city and 6.4% said they had already moved.
The San Francisco Bay Area topped the list of cities workers wanted to flee for cheaper pastures. Washington, DC, New York, Baltimore and Los Angeles were next in that order. Tech and ad-industry workers were more likely to want to move than their peers in other industries. And men were more eager than women to relocate, as were workers under 40.
Why we care. The shift to more remote work is going to change the lives of marketers and technology workers in subtle and dramatic ways. Companies will be looking geographically at a much broader talent pool and often seeking employees in lower-cost locations to save on compensation.
More marketing agencies will become 100% virtual. And while remote work is already a reality for a large number of digital marketers there will be substantial adjustments in the office-free future, around mentoring, employee development and collaboration among others.
The impact on B2B marketing — reaching decision-making teams in a more distributed workforce — is less clear. It may require new, more creative thinking about targeting. However, COVID-inspired remote sales tactics (e.g., video) will persist. And more compressed funnels and accelerated B2B dealmaking, if we’re lucky, may also be here to stay.