Many companies are demanding employees go back to the office rather than giving them a transition time or work-from-home option. And it’s not surprising that just as many executives are grappling with the challenge that is front and center: employees don’t want to go back to the office. But are we really asking the right questions?

According to an April survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 44% of firms say that they have job openings they are unable to fill right now, the highest rate in the history of the survey. Meanwhile, the U.S. BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) says unemployment rates were lower in June in seven states and the District of Columbia, higher in three states, and stable in 40 states.

The workforce shortage trend is likely to continue. The U.S. Conference Board predicts labor shortages might ease by the end of this year, but not for long. After a pause in 2022, tight labor markets will remain until the next recession.

Are we going to see a mass exit? With a tight labor market and companies strapped for talent—and many employees not wanting to return to the office—many corporate executives are shifting focus to what the employees want.

What the Employee Wants

While this certainly varies from person to person, today’s worker is extremely socially engaged and mobile ready. Their mobile mindset has them very focused on user-friendly platforms and solutions. Workers want to be connected to colleagues, but in very different ways than in the past.

Many workers value personal health, safety, and collaboration—and yes, a large portion of them want to continue their working-from-home ways so much so that there is a tug-of-war happening in businesses across the globe.

What Is Best for Business

Perhaps the most important question isn’t being asked at all. Let’s take the worker shortage off the table for a minute. What is ultimately best for the business? I think the answer depends on the company, certainly, but the case can be made that remote work can be a good option both for the employees and the bottomline. Here is just a sampling of reasons why a remote or hybrid option can be good for business.

Little office expenses: Minimizing office space and other similar overhead expenses could potentially save billions. In fact, Global Workplace Analytics says telework can save more than $500 billion a year in real estate, electricity, absenteeism, turnover, and productivity. That equates to roughly $11,000 per employee per year.

Heightened productivity: For many companies, the jury is still out on if remote work is more productive. Global Workplace Analytics suggests telework can potentially increase national productivity by 5 million man-years or $270 billion worth of work. If that isn’t enough to convince you, consider the American Time Use Survey from the U.S. BLS, which collected data about how Americans spent their time in 2020. Average time spent working declined by 17 minutes per day from 2019 to 2020, but that is mostly due to a decrease in the share of the population that was employed. The amount of time employed persons spent working each day was about the same—7.7 hours in 2019 and 7.6 hours in 2020. What did change drastically was time spent traveling, which declined by 26 minutes from an average of 1.2 hours per day in 2019 to 47 minutes per day in 2020.

Better for the planet: We have seen the work-from-home phenomenon is ultimately good for our planet. Telework has had a positive impact on the planet and it just might reduce greenhouse gases by 54 million tons a year, reduce wear and tear on our highways by more than 119 billion miles a year, and save some 640 million barrels of oil.

Access to workers from all around the world: Finally, a big benefit is companies can pool from a much larger talent base. Ideal job candidates are all over the world, not just in your zip code. A remote office opens-up your labor pool to a much wider workforce.

So, what would you add? What is ultimately best for the business? Should something more be considered here, as we begin to navigate our way back to the office—or not?

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