The Work From Home (WFM) movement certainly wasn't created out of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the health crisis did really bring it to the forefront of today's workplace discussions. According to Pew Research, only 7% of the workforce in the United States had the option to work at home before lockdowns and stay at home orders. These numbers vary by country, and the percentages were higher in specific fields and among more highly compensated workers.
But things changed fast. In a recent survey, Global Workplace Analytics found that 88% of office workers surveyed are now working at home at least one day a week. What this data doesn't show is a more subtle shift. That smaller percentage of workers in the past had the option of working at home. The possibility of remote work was a perk of the job. There are a whole lot of people working from home right now who have no choice. For them, working from home became mandatory.
A mandate to work form home is not great for everyone. A new study from Gensler research found that only 12% of surveyed workers "want to work from home full-time." But notice the specificity of that finding. It was explicitly about working from "home" and doing it "full-time."
Being forced to work from one's home full-time is much different than the freedom to work from anywhere. Many workers were forced to set up shop in their homes that were already in chaos due to children being home from school. Not everyone has the luxury of a quiet place to work, and some found themselves creating a makeshift office in their kitchen where their work competes for attention with crying kids, pets, and other distractions of domestic life. Gone from the idea of remote work is flexibility.
Remote workers of the past had options. They could spend part of the day in a coffee shop or library. Some even took advantage of the chance to spend a day at the office when necessary. But for months, home has been the only place available for many.
This is the moment when many organizations are considering what work life will look like in the future. Facebook, Twitter, Square, Shopify, and Slack are among companies that have already announced that remote work will be a central part of their "new normal" moving forward. However, what that is going to look like is still being discussed.
When we look back at 2020, we will find that we learned a lot about remote work. The main thing that we will find is that when people say they want to "work at home," they likely mean they want the flexibility to work in the place that is best for them and the duties they perform. Some workers enjoy personal contact and possibilities for collaboration found in the office and see the environment as more productive. Others feel just the opposite and dread the distraction and interruptions of a shared space. Still others appreciate the flexibility of moving back and forth as needed.
When we finally reach the day that things begin to return to normal, we will likely see a trend toward the concept of "work from anywhere." That could be work from home, work in an office, or work from a third-place like a coffee shop, library, or co-working space. Work from anywhere allows people to work in an environment that is fluid, free, and flexible. Eventually, it will be about what works best for the employees and will enable them to be the most efficient and effective
 “Before the coronavirus, telework was an optional benefit, mostly for the affluent few.”, Drew Desilver, Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/03/20/before-the-coronavirus-telework-was-an-optional-benefit-mostly-for-the-affluent-few/ft_20-03-18_telework_1/
 “Work From Home Experience Survey Results”, Global Workplace Analytics, https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/global-work-from-home-experience-survey
 “Only 12% of U.S. workers want to work from home full-time. Most want to return to the workplace, but with critical changes.”, Gensler Research, https://www.gensler.com/us-wfh-survey-2020-wfh-reinforces-the-benefits-of-the-office]
 “These companies plan to make working from home the new normal. As in forever”, Rob McLean, CNN Business, https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/22/tech/work-from-home-companies