For most workers, working on-site within the walls of an office is all we’ve ever known.  We wake up, commute into the office, sit at our desk, work throughout the day, clock out, and head home.  Monday through Friday has looked like this for years on end.  Intermittent vacations, life events, and company changes (among other things) have been the only break in an otherwise Groundhog Day-esque routine.

After months in quarantine with many working remotely as a function of public health, we’ve almost forgotten just how prevalent this was.  With that in mind, we jumped into our time machine to understand more about what the state of remote working was prior to the pandemic, dusting off data from years past to see what we knew before this became a reality for so many companies across the globe.

According to statistics from 2018, there were only 4.3 million remote workers in the United States – which at the time made up only 3.2% of the workforce.  That figure increased only marginally in the three years prior, when in 2015 there were 3.9 million remote workers in the country.

In this pre-COVID reality companies were spending quite a bit of money on their office space, too.  In fact, commercial real estate is among the biggest operating expenses associated with running a company.  Much of the cost variance is dependent on which city (or cities) the company decides to lay its roots in.  On a per employee, per year basis, here’s how the numbers shake out:

In New York, the average price for office space per employee costs ~$14,800 per year.

San Francisco comes in at a close second, at ~$13,032 per year.

In our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., it’s more than $10,000 per year.

With 100 full-time employees (FTEs), a company based in New York will expect to spend nearly $1.5 million annually on their office space.

One. And. A. Half. MILLION. Dollars.  And – oh, by the way – these are 2015 statistics.

That’s a lot of cheddar.

Dollars and cents are just part of the equation, though.  With an eye towards talent acquisition and retention, here are some more interesting tidbits from 2017 data:

Fully-distributed companies take 33% less time to hire a new employee.  Many companies will cite just how hard it is to hire nowadays.  The speed with which companies can identify, interview, and hire quality people is as important as ever in a fast-changing environment.  After all, until the robots take over (see our upcoming post in February 2023 for more details), its our people who sit at the core of how successful a company can/will be.  A central reason why fully-distributed teams can do this more efficiently is because they aren’t bound by geographic barriers.  Without a limit of say, a 25-mile radius from their office locations, companies unlock a pool of qualified candidates that’s exponentially larger.

Companies that support remote work have a 25% lower employee turnover rate.  For most companies, the experience is all too often a similar story.  You fight tooth and nail to hire the best people, onboard them, but see quality people exit for a variety of different reasons.  This is an expensive proposition and one that can slow you down – or worse, keep you altogether – from reaching the heights you want.

What do people actually want?  Can they be as productive outside of the traditional office environment?

The short answer is yes.  Polling from 2019 shows that an overwhelming 99% of respondents want to work from home – at least some of the time – for the rest of their career.  About three-quarters of folks that already work remotely find that, because of less distractions prevalent in in-office environments, they are more productive.

Destination 2020 and beyond.

This trip to yester-year was eye-opening in many ways.  As it turns out, we didn’t need a pandemic to connect many of these dots.  Cost-savings, talent, productivity, retention, giving people what they want – it’s pretty clear that we’re capable of more as a society if we commit to adopting a working environment where remote sits at the center compared to the office-centric approach of the majority.

But where do we go from here?  The answer to that question is the one that really matters.  We’re facing a moment in history that is unlike anything most of us have experienced; an economy that’s hurting, mass unemployment, civil unrest, and more.  Employees and jobseekers are looking to leaders of business and their industry to understand how to navigate this sea of unknowns.  But many business owners themselves are trying to unpack how they are going to survive this environment.  Post-pandemic, they’re hoping that there’s a business to run.

Switching to a remote-first culture is a cheat code of sorts for businesses, one that can help address some of these macro question marks facing us.  It’s an all too familiar situation: people know what to do, why it makes sense, but are unsure about how.

And that’s okay.

We started MagicDesk precisely for this reason.  The thought of companies being forced to make tough decisions to let people go for reasons that we think are avoidable in some respects made us sick to our stomach.  Thing is, the technology to support companies properly has existed for years.  It requires a unique skillset to deploy and manage in a way that is both user-friendly and secure.  Thankfully, that’s what we do.

If you’re interested in learning how MagicDesk can secure your infrastructure and data while providing the flexibility to support your end users irrespective of where they are, please reach out.  We’d love to help you not just survive, but thrive in 2020 and beyond.