From Home to ‘Hybrid’: Working Remote to Remain the Trend If Not the Norm

By Michael Sakal
Michael Sakal
Michael Sakal
Michael Sakal is a former reporter for The Epoch Times.
January 4, 2022Updated: January 10, 2022

The posting for the job ad reads like this:

“You will work from home, full-time. It will require a quiet, distraction-free environment with access to high-speed internet. We will provide you with the computer, technology, and equipment needed to successfully perform your job. You will be responsible for providing high-speed internet.”

The job posting is for a customer care specialist at an Ohio-based pharmaceutical and medical supply company, but it could also be for a financial or high-tech job pretty much anywhere.

Working remotely isn’t so much a trend anymore; since the pandemic, it’s often becoming a choice, if not the norm.

From health care to high-tech, from call centers to sales and even government, workers are continuing to work remotely and transition to a trend called the “hotel” (going into the office on a very limited basis) or “hybrid” environment.

It remains uncertain, if not unlikely, that various industries will return to offices or sprawling campuses.

It seems that working remotely remains the way to go, at least for now. But Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University for the past 15 years, who is considered the “leading work-from-home expert” in the United States, told The Epoch Times that he sees the work from home trend decreasing once we reach the post-pandemic months.

Epoch Times Photo
Nicholas Bloom sees many people returning to work in 2022 and believes that just 25 percent of the nation’s workforce will be remote by the end of 2022. (Courtesy of Stanford University)

Prior to the pandemic, about 5 percent of the U.S. workforce was remote, and at the peak of the pandemic in 2020, about 55 percent worked from home, Bloom said.

Currently, about 35 percent of the U.S. workforce is working remotely. By the end of 2022, Bloom believes workers performing their jobs remotely will be down to about 25 percent, such as people at call centers, working payroll, or human resources, and about 80 percent will be hybrid.

“People have been returning to work,” Bloom told The Epoch Times. “Not everybody can work remotely. It does have its challenges, such as innovation and maintaining a work culture; knowing what the company stands for and knowing who your co-workers are.”

Bloom, who has a website focusing on working from home, says he has spoken to decision-makers at hundreds of firms throughout the pandemic.

He currently believes the workforce trend is moving toward a “hybrid” model, in which workers will spend 2 to 3 days in the office, or on-site, while working maybe 2 to 3 days from home. He sees the trend as workers going into the office on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and working from home on Tuesdays and Fridays.

“One of the biggest disadvantages of working remote is isolation,” Bloom said. “Although many people working remotely are more productive, they have a hard time as they lack social interaction with their co-workers. The hybrid model helps with that and is more social.”

Of the many corporations and companies Bloom spoke to, he discovered that 28 percent of remote workers had children at home, 26 percent had more online meetings, and 26 percent hadn’t worked remotely before.

Although many workers are happy to work from home, as it gives them more “freedom” from the office confines, is it a good thing to have these major changes in the workplace, and companies selling campuses or leaving office space unoccupied? Is remote work a viable long-term strategy?

After all, working remotely does have its advantages: You can work from just about anywhere, have a flexible schedule, and spend more time with family and save on gas costs if you no longer commute.

It also has its disadvantages: There’s managing your own schedule and time, the blurred line between personal and professional life, distractions such as young children staying home from schools, and communication challenges, as well as coordination challenges and social isolation.

Workers in other states also have continued working at home, despite the Omicron variant of the coronavirus being less severe.

Bloom noted that most of the remote workers have been professionals, high-tech, customer service, and call-center-related personnel.

“Not everybody can work remotely,” Bloom said. “If you’re a front-line worker such as someone in health care, retail, or the restaurant business, you have to be there and see people face to face.”

Of the workers who were sent home early during the pandemic in Ohio, about 30 percent of those are believed to be continuing to work at home, or remotely, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services spokesman Mike Duty told The Epoch Times, citing the Ohio Mayors Alliance, which represents about 40 of the state’s larger cities.

Other places that have remained remote include Ohio-based Premier Health, Montgomery County Job and Family Services that serves the Dayton area, insurance providers, and high-tech companies such as LexisNexis in Dayton, a major information solutions company, and even government workers whom people rely on for information or services.

In fact, LexisNexis sold its six multi-story office buildings, totaling 391,000 square feet covering its 60-acre complex south of downtown Dayton, to Industrial Commercial Properties of Cleveland and California-based Industrial Realty Group in a joint venture for $7.8 million in early 2021.

LexisNexis, which had a strong presence in Dayton for about 40 years, relocated many of its 3,000 workers to the Research Triangle, a high-tech workforce area in Raleigh, North Carolina. However, it rented back two buildings for the small number of remaining workers.

Epoch Times Photo
As remote workforces continue and hybrid office work schedules emerge in the United States, companies are beginning to sell office buildings or entire campuses. Information solutions giant LexisNexis sold its six multi-story office buildings south of downtown Dayton, Ohio. (Courtesy of Industrial Commercial Properties)

The property’s new owners plan to transform it into a “premier regional office park” with 254,000 square feet of commercial office space available, according to Industrial Commercial Properties (ICP).

Phone calls seeking comment weren’t returned by ICP or Industrial Realty Group.

Although the job of Steve Anderson, vice president for LexisNexis’s customer experience and operations, was eliminated in February 2021, the company’s workforce had worked remotely since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. The office buildings sat unoccupied, Anderson told The Epoch Times.

Anderson had worked for the company for 32 years and had just completed the moving chart for workers in his division when his position was made redundant.

He said the company had been looking at ways to downsize and consolidate its office buildings for a number of years, and he believes the pandemic provided them that reason to move forward with it in a faster manner.

“When we had to work remotely, we had very little problems,” said Anderson, who now consults high-tech companies from an office in his basement.

“Lexis-Nexis is a technology-driven company, so we had the infrastructure, all of that to work from home. We just needed to make sure there was enough bandwidth in the home for people to connect to. There had to be enough to support the computers, internet, and videos.

“Whether there was enough technology to be able to work from home was a non-issue, but some people were faced with family issues and distractions.

“In a lot of cases, both spouses were home, and kids were home and attending school online. I was able to work in the basement, and my daughters could work in their bedrooms. We were able to spread out, but if they would have been smaller or toddlers, it would have been different.”

Pat Siler, an analytics developer for Premier Health’s Miami Valley Hospital’s IT department in downtown Dayton for the past eight years, has worked remotely since March 2020, the beginning of the pandemic.

Siler isn’t sure if the medical network’s administrative staff will ever go back to their offices at the hospital.

Employees were told to clean out their desks in July 2021 and the hospital staff has gone to a “hotel environment” of people going back into their offices on a very limited basis, Siler told The Epoch Times.

“I didn’t like it too much at first,” Siler said of working remotely, “but I love it now.”

“I took a spare bedroom and converted it into an office. I miss the personal part of the job, seeing people at work and discussing projects, but we talk during Microsoft team meetings mostly over Zoom because we’re able to log into our workstations from home. I’m more productive at home.”

Other than people sometimes just stopping by the house when he’s working, on the upside, Siler said he saves about $160 a month from not having to pay for gas for his Silverado truck’s drive to the hospital. Nor does he have to pay $16 a month to park in a nearby parking garage. He’s also lost weight from not eating as much junk food at his office desk at the hospital.

“It’s like getting a 4 percent raise, but I’m still paying Dayton city taxes even though I don’t go there,” Siler said.

There are also many remote jobs with Bath and Body Works and Victoria’s Secret seeking customer service representatives, Montgomery County Workforce Development spokesperson Mike Zimmerman told The Epoch Times.

Of the 14 caseworkers in the Montgomery County Job and Family Services office in Dayton, 12 of them work remotely and two of them remain in the office, said Judy Puterbaugh, an eligibility specialist who reviews applications for those seeking food stamps, cash, and medical assistance.

Puterbaugh will mark her fourth year on the job in January 2022, and she said she enjoys working at home.

The Montgomery County Job and Family Services staff members began working at home in August 2020. Because of the pandemic, JFS offices had to close their doors to applicants while workers socially distanced by working in every other cubicle while wearing masks. By the end of 2020, the number of applicants and caseloads had doubled, Puterbaugh said.

They were required to have high-speed internet in their home with wireless capabilities, an ethernet cable, and a cellphone. Puterbaugh said that although she uses all three of those items for her job, she still pays for those herself.

Plus, since the caseworkers possess applicants’ confidential information, they also had to be able to work in a room behind a locked door.

A top requirement of JFS caseworkers being able to remain remote was keeping up with quantity and quality—work or assistance eligibility determinations that are 95 to 98 percent error-free.

Epoch Times Photo
Judy Puterbaugh is an eligibility specialist for the Montgomery County Job and Family Services serving the Dayton, Ohio, area, and has worked remotely since August 2020. (Courtesy of Judy Puterbaugh)

“I have a desk in my bedroom,” Puterbaugh said. “The ethernet cable the county gave me wasn’t long enough, so I bought one. It’s 100 feet long. Oh, it’s been a learning process.”

Puterbaugh has three sons, two in college and one in high school, but said she doesn’t have any distractions at home.

“It’s different,” Puterbaugh said of working at home. “The main thing I miss is that personal one-on-one meeting with an applicant, but I still get that one-on-one over the phone with applicants. Plus, our unit has Zoom meetings, so we still see our co-workers from time to time. Our managers want us to keep our numbers up and quality.”

“I like working at home. I enjoy it. I can focus on my work without distractions. It fits my personality.”

It remains to be seen what the future of remote work holds, but it could be one where most people work in the comfort of their homes (or while traveling), and where downtown central business districts (CBDs) will become less important.

Remote work could cause a shift in urban planning that will transition to a dispersed style of development throughout the city and its outlying areas, according to experts.

Bloom said city centers are losing people, they aren’t losing corporations.

Workers at Podiatry Insurance Company of America in Franklin, Tennessee, have been working remotely since the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s uncertain whether they will return to the office. In fact, Podiatry has rented out the third and fourth floors of one of its four-story office buildings.

At least one worker there said he “loves” working at home.

“I have more freedom and less pressure of being in the office,” the worker told The Epoch Times.

“If I get hungry, I can get up and make a sandwich, if I want to listen to the radio, I can do that. Or if I want to take a break, I’m home to walk the dog.

“Plus, I can see my family on a more regular basis.”