Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Is Remote Working Here to Stay?

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

The pandemic might not have completely erased work/life boundaries.

The trend toward remote and hybrid working has reshaped industries and spurred soaring growth for many software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies. But will these gains reverse themselves as people return to previous working habits?

In this video from The Virtual Opportunities Show, broadcast on Nov 30, Motley Fool contributors Demitri Kalogeropoulos, Asit Sharma, and Rachel Warren take on that question and what it could mean for investors going forward. 

10 stocks we like better than Walmart
When our award-winning analyst team has an investing tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

They just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Walmart wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

See the 10 stocks

Stock Advisor returns as of 6/15/21

Rachel Warren: Well, I talk a lot about remote working trends and in light of the great resignation and especially as it pertains to digital transformation. This wasn't a story so much about a specific stock, so much as what we're seeing in the world of remote work. I thought that's interesting article on CNBC and it was entitled, Harvard work guru on the make-or-break questions about jobs of the future in the US. According to Rachel Lipson, she's the founding project director of projects on workforce at Harvard University Center for Social Policy. She said there's still a chance at the workplace to revert back to a norm that resembles the pre pandemic office world and risk that remote work develops into an equitable professional class system. She's certain that education will set the tone for work in the future. That AI is going to change the nature of work.

What was interesting specifically about this was that, we look today as the world is moving more and more toward remote work and I think it's easy to look at it as the smooth transition. Particularly so many people have had to start working remotely when maybe they would not have otherwise due to the pandemic. One of the points that she made was that nothing about remote work is certain. At the start of the pandemic, labor experts were skeptical of the US professional work culture was ready to embrace remark employment, the article says. Now, almost two years later, assumptions have changed as remote and hybrid work has proven to be productive.

According to Rachel Lipson, she says that experts are still reserving judgment on whether the acceptance of remote and hybrid culture is permanent. Over time, are we going to see a reversion of going back to normal? Another points that she made was the future of work in a lot of ways is dependent on the future of education. Creating, transitioning from the education system into good job and questioning whether more education necessarily equals more success, are among the issues of major consequence for the future of work. In short, I think a couple of things she's saying is, we've seen this massive move over to the remote office. Whether that's because your company went remote or are you took the remote jobs in the height of the pandemic or you just started to freelance. Some of these trends might start to shift as the pandemic now hopefully dies down.

Then if that's not the case, there's some concerns about all the technologies that are in place and go hand-in-hand with remote work and the ability of particularly for older workforce and other aspects of the workforce to keep up with those technological changes. That's just not something I've thought about a lot.

For me, I was working remotely before the pandemic began. I've been a writer now for years, but I was contracting with The Motley Fool long before the pandemic started. For me, there was, in terms of my work life, no transition. I think it's important not to underestimate the fact that this is not necessarily a smooth transition for everyone. Some companies have been very resistant to transitioning to remote work. Others, I think are seeing employees are picking up and moving elsewhere if they can't have flexible options and so they're looking more into it.

But I thought it was an interesting point that Ms. Lipson makes, that there could be some inequity in terms of this transition from remote work if in fact there's not sufficient education that help workers keep up with those trends. Any thoughts there?

Asit Sharma: Demitri, I've got a few. But curious to hear your take on that.

Demitri Kalogeropoulos: I mean, I thought that whole article was really interesting. What struck me, I guess was that, there's so much because we've seen such a huge change and it is really shocking to see. We're still month-to-month. We're seeing, for example, the monthly quit rate or whatever is still just setting historical records like every month. It does feel like there's been this massive tectonic shift in the workforce. It's amazing to live through it and watch it happen in real time as we are right now.

But the article brings up some good points like the idea of education, how quickly education has to shift to that. I think that's a huge difference. I think it's a big priority. I think a lot of particularly higher education should be looking at because we've seen the nature of work change so much. Then I guess there's going to be a lot of that. At least a bigger component of the remote education process, which I think is great to work into your normal college experience.

But I guess the big question there too is, is this all just going to revert back to normal in a year? I don't know. I guess you have to assume it's not and then adjust if it does. But I guess we'll find out.

Warren: I can't imagine that completely reverting back to the way it was before. I mean, I guess anything is possible. But it is interesting. You think about technology moves so much faster than everything else, whether it'd be regulation or the education, so I think it's like you have a whole new generation of people that are entering hopefully the workforce. Do we have the tools in place to help make sure people are as quick as they can be to succeed in a really rapidly changing work environment?

Asit Sharma: I think that's part of the hybrid work movement, is trying to be thoughtful about how we go back. I know from following Zoom that they work with some third-parties like Logitech to try to flatten the environment. Let's say we go back to work. Those of us who weren't remote before the pandemic and were going to physical environment, they're trying to make it so that if I'm at home and I'm on a conference call with Demitri and Rachel, who are in the office, somehow, we have equivalent footing.

The different camera, the placements of the windows that I see is attempting to make this even playing field. But I wonder, my own thesis is that we are never going back quite to what we had before, but it could be wrong.

Reading Rachel's article was eye-opening, because if you think about it, depends on, does shift back on human sentiment. If everyone gets used to a virtual or a hybrid environment, and then we see that we have this longing for more connection. You can see the entire global workforce drifting back to what it had before, which is real estate based, communal, close.

We forget that element that we've enjoyed so far, which is a closer connection with family and friends. The ability to not have to commute to work. Those become rear mirror things that because of our recency bias, we don't value as much.

We revalue the connection, or we see companies they're perceived to innovate because they go back to a model in which people are working together outside of virtual screens, but having interactions in person and are able to extrapolate something meaningful out of that in the marketplace.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.