Will telecommuting last until 2022? Business plans always on the move

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Trends show fewer people are working remotely, but Greater Cleveland’s largest employers are still deciding whether the return to the office will be necessary in 2022.

Now they’re making that decision in the face of the delta and omicron variants – and whatever we plan today, the situation could be completely different by January.

As the holidays approached, the trend was to return to the office. According to data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, only one in three people who worked remotely in May 2020 were still doing so in November. The question is whether this trend will continue.

“Right now I think pretty much everyone has adjusted to some form of return to work,” said Doug Price, CEO of K&D Group, one of the largest business owners in the Cleveland area. .

Federal data shows that 35.4% of all workers telecommuted due to COVID-19 in May 2020 when the BLS started tracking this. In November 2020, this share fell to 21.8%. A year later, only 11.3% of employees work from home because of the virus.

The more educated people are, the more likely people are to work from home. People aged 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree or above worked remotely 59.6% of the time in May 2020, almost four times the rate of those with only high school diplomas (15.3 %). In November, 21.3% of college graduates worked remotely; 3.5% for high school graduates.

Work data only counts people working from home because of COVID-19, and not people working from home for other reasons. If a business moved away permanently, employees would not count towards these totals.

What big employers are saying

Greater Cleveland’s largest employers appear to be reopening to some extent, and many are still in the process of finalizing the details.

KeyBank reopened Key Tower and its Higbee and Tiedeman facilities to all employees over the summer, said spokesperson Matthew Pitts.

The company has approximately 17,000 employees nationwide, including offices and branches. About 20% of them work from home. Half work in the office four or five days a week and 30% spend three days in the office.

About 1,000 KeyBank employees assigned to downtown Cleveland headquarters and other offices in Northeast Ohio continue to work remotely, he said.

“One of the things we’ve learned over the past year is that a lot more of our tasks can be performed efficiently from remote locations – and more of our teammates are willing to give up allotted office space. to retain that flexibility, ”Pitts said.

He said workspaces are being redesigned to accommodate mobile working and employees can reserve space online before entering. KeyBank is currently renovating certain floors of Key Tower and parts of its Tiedeman campus to be more “mobile friendly”.

PNC Bank opened its buildings on June 14 and allows workers to enter on a voluntary basis. Spokeswoman Shannon Mortland said PNC remains flexible as it monitors the COVID environment.

Progressive, headquartered in Mayfield, is always on the move, spokesman Michael Ferrari said. The company is still in the process of finalizing its plans for future work.

JP Morgan Chase is monitoring the “fluid” situation, spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski said, but employees have been returning for several months.

She said some are in five days a week while others come half the time. Some teams are piloting hybrid work schedules, she said.

Sherwin-Williams, Eaton and Parker-Hannafin did not respond to requests for comment.

K&D Group regularly surveys its tenants. Price said many of those companies started returning this summer.

Commercial parking lot usage is around 80% from 2019 levels, he said. K & D’s residential lots are empty again during the day, as people are likely leaving for work. And he said most companies renew leases.

“It’s not this foretold disaster that everyone was talking about,” Price said.

A vote for working from home

Business coach and consultant Cheryl Perez doesn’t see a rushed return to the office.

She predicted that companies will continue to adopt remote and hybrid work models; both because the pandemic has shown that they can work and because the young talents entering the market demand it.

“We’ve been through 22 months of proving that we can handle working from home and it won’t deteriorate everything,” said Perez, owner of a Brecksville-based consulting firm operated under his name.

Perez let her own employees work remotely, although she prefers to go to the office. She saved money by reducing the size of her space, but said she and her employees have found a better work-life balance.

Perez said she believed the forced return of employees to the office was contributing to the “big resignation.” Bosses may think offices work better, but workers feel different.

“Once people started saying you had to come to the office, people started quitting their jobs,” Perez said.

The ability to work from home could help manage factors that prevent people from working, such as lack of child care and health issues. Perez said many women prefer it as well, as they are often faced with extra work around the house.

Even she isn’t 100% comfortable with not being able to monitor her employees. But she said she realized that someone who looks busy isn’t always productive, and remote working made her pay attention.

Perez said larger companies would likely retain headquarters and office positions, but increasingly they will need to consider whether the positions can be remote. Small businesses will have the hardest time pivoting, she predicts, as executives will have less time to put effort into a hybrid transition.

The Price Company of 350, however, never left the office. He said K&D Group has mitigation strategies in place, like cleaning and social distancing, and is now a fully vaccinated company.

“From the start, I said you can’t keep the corporate culture alive forever with remote working,” Price said.

Perez disagrees.

“Every business owner really needs to get out of their head and think about the future, and not only what they want their business to be, but also where they want their fashion to be. of life either, “Perez said.

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