When the coronavirus pandemic halted our normal lives in early 2020, the ability to do everything from the safety of home became everyone’s focus. We have seen decreases in travel, increases in shopping online, and even a change in the way we work. Last year, companies quickly developed means for their employees to work from home. Software for video conferences, online chatting, and the ability to access company networks from home rapidly evolved under pressure to resume working back in March of 2020, when everything shut down.

As vaccines roll out and restrictions are lifted, some of us are returning back to our workplaces. However, a significant number of employees still work from home and may never plan on returning to the office. In Europe, the number of employees working remotely has risen from 5% pre-pandemic to a current estimate of 12.3% of the population. Ireland, Luxembourg, and Finland still have over 20% of their employees working remotely.

Over the past year and a half, companies have been able to observe the success of their employees working remotely and analyze the benefits of this new option. Now that the developed countries of the world have the means for office employees to work from home, will the companies still push for everyone to return to the office?

Around the world, executives are struggling with this question. Many careers in business are well-suited for virtual work. For this reason, advanced economies are seeing this trend significantly more than emerging economies. An analysis by McKinsey & Company notes the countries with the highest potential for remote work; the United Kingdom, Germany, the U.S., Japan, France, and Spain all have the potential for about a third of their workforce to be completely remote.

Just last week, PwC became one of the first large companies to offer their employees fully remote work in perpetuity. While this option is only available for PwC’s U.S. employees as of now, the global firm will open up the option to Britain within the next year and may expand this offer to its other overseas employees. They estimate up to 35% of their employees will take this option. This lines up with another estimate stating that more than one-third of UK citizens would be less inclined to apply for a job that did not offer remote work. There is even discussion in the UK about creating legislation making it illegal to force employees to work in the office. Many employees have enjoyed the opportunity to work from home, and never want to return to the office five days a week. In the coming months, other large firms may follow PwC's lead and give their employees the option to stay at home.

A blog published to globalEDGE last year explored the benefits and drawbacks of the sudden need to work from home. It is interesting to consider all that has changed in the past year and a half. The way that employees work will surely still evolve, especially as the world continues to recover from the pandemic. Today, it seems that employers and employees alike are placing an emphasis on the need for flexibility and wellbeing in their lives. It seems many employees across the globe believe working from home can accomplish these goals, and work in the office may never return to pre-pandemic levels.

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