The impact of a recession on remote work

December 6, 2022


The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the evolution of many new norms including remote work. Non-essential office workers were mandated to work from home (WFH) to curb the spread of the virus. Over the following two years, WFH became an expectation, not a luxury. Many people want the option to choose to work remotely or, at the very least, in a hybrid working setup. For some, having that choice is non-negotiable.

Thousands of employers have fully embraced this new way of working. It reduces overhead expenses in a myriad of ways. Businesses no longer have to pay exorbitant rental prices for massive offices, office supplies costs are vastly reduced and travel or commuting stipends have been rendered obsolete. However, possibly an equal number of organizations cling to working in the office.

A considerable number of companies have pushed a return to the office, and as many employees have pushed back. Now, in the face of yet another global recession, some say going back to the office will become the norm yet again. Others say the opposite is true. What is the case for either argument? And what implications will one or the other have for employers?

Back to square one

One of the first business strategies for coping with an economic crisis is to downsize the workforce. This primarily means layoffs. If employers are determined to have their employees return to the office, workers wanting to keep their jobs may be forced to comply. As CNBC explains, this might give bosses the upper hand once again.

Highly skilled and trained professionals will likely have their pick of jobs and, therefore, more bargaining power. But less experienced or qualified workers might have to acquiesce. This is potentially true for job-seekers, too, as companies will cut their budgets and hire fewer new recruits.

The new norm is just that

Because WFH is considered the standard by many people, employers will have to accommodate this demand. Given current skills and labor shortages, hiring managers and executives may have no choice but to oblige. The Great Resignation that followed the onset of the pandemic saw almost 50 million people quit their jobs. With two job vacancies for every employee, workers have more leverage than ever before and it’s prudent for businesses to recognize this fact.

Surviving a recession means maximum productivity with minimal resources. The only way to achieve peak efficiency is to have fully invested and dedicated employees. As Psychology Today explains, inspiring loyalty and commitment are predicated on employee satisfaction. And, to achieve that, an organization has to meet its workers’ demands. If satisfying those employee requirements means offering workers the choice to work from home either full-time or on a hybrid schedule, that is what businesses will have to offer.

Ultimately, whether you offer remote work or a hybrid model will depend on the nature of your industry and what your employees want. It’s worth doing your research into the latter.