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  • Writer's pictureClif Harald

America’s Evolving Workplaces – What’s Next?

Almost 40% of U.S. employees say they can do their job from home during the COVID pandemic, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center. Of those who can work remotely, nearly three-quarters of them are doing so already, mostly because their workplaces are closed for the time being. Before the pandemic, only one-in-five worked from home all or most of the time. About 90% of U.S. employees whose work can be done at home say they want to continue working remotely at least some of the time after the pandemic.

Other key findings of the Pew study:

  • Most employees working from home during the pandemic say it’s been easy for them to meet deadlines and complete projects on time, get their work done without interruptions, and feel motivated to do their work.

  • The industries in which most U.S. employees say they can’t work remotely include retail, manufacturing, construction, leisure and hospitality, and health care. Those who can are in professional, scientific, and technical services; financial services; real estate; and education.

  • Just over 40% of women say they can do their jobs at home; about a third of men say the same.

  • Pew notes that “there’s a clear class divide between workers who can and cannot telework.” Higher educational attainment and incomes are among the indicators Pew associated with those able to work remotely.

These findings raise interesting issues for the sustainable economic vitality of a community like Boulder, according to local business leaders.

Sean Maher, CEO, RRC Associates, and former CEO of the Downtown Boulder Partnership

“Our research indicates that 62% of Boulder employees are working from home due to COVID, and that 16% of them will never go back to the office. Half say it is unknown when or if they will return. This could portend major disruptions for commercial property owners and their investors if tenants don’t renew their leases.

If remote working becomes the norm, a major casualty will be small businesses who rely on office workers and their need for coffee, sandwiches, dry cleaning, etc. There is just no way for most of them to pivot to new markets.”

Becky Callan Gamble, President, Dean Callan & Company

Boulder has a large workforce that needs and wants to be in their company workplaces. It may not be 8am to 5pm, five days a week, but historically most Boulder office employees have worked flexible, “lifestyle” hours.

Trends in workplace design and floor layouts evolve over time. Remember when everyone wanted hard wall offices? Then we went through having no offices and open floor plans? COVID is the catalyst for a major shift in which companies will enable more flexibility for employees to work at home or their company workplaces.

There’s no question that small businesses depend on purchasing from the workforce to help them prosper. We’re in a period of time when, in collaboration with other community leaders, small businesses must continue to adapt like they have since March.”

Our workplaces and work lives are evolving as much now as they ever have. It’s anyone’s guess how things will look in the coming years. Consider the example of Twitter. In May the company announced that employees could work from home forever. Five months later it signed a 65,000 square foot lease in Boulder, doubling the size of its footprint here. Many of us in Boulder are interested to see how Twitter reconciles these seemingly contradictory moves. You can follow our blog to keep tabs on this story.


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