Is Teleconferencing REALLY the Workforce of the Future?

While business intelligence outlets continue to forecast remarkable growth in the conferencing software and hardware markets, there may be some cracks in the conventional wisdom that the hybrid workforce these allow will be the dominant workforce of the future. Workers have begun trickling back into the office. This as major conferencing and collaboration player Zoom had its first net loss since 2018 in the fourth quarter. But another force is pushing back against telework much more strongly than employers.

Remote Work is Costing Cities Thousands of Dollars Each Year

A recent analysis by Work From Home Research found annual losses topped $3,000 per worker in many cities as employees stayed home rather than traveling to city centers and spending at restaurants, retailers, small businesses, and other outlets. These losses were felt especially profoundly by small businesses, which are often the backbone of local economies. They've faced increased pressure due to their inability to attract the same levels of customers as in previous years, and local developers, politicians, and governments have taken notice.

For example, last month DC Mayor Muriel Bowser promised to reinvigorate downtown with new residents, vowing to grow the number of residents working and living in its downtown area. But she also urged federal workers, a high percentage of whom telework, to return or give up their space so it can be used more productively. By increasing the number of residents downtown, the mayor hopes to create a more vibrant and diverse atmosphere that will bring more businesses to the area. This will create more jobs, increase the tax base, and create a more desirable place for people to live and work. Additionally, by encouraging federal workers to either return or give up their space, the mayor is trying to ensure that the limited space downtown is used to its fullest potential. Both of these would be to the economic advantage of existing businesses.

This doesn't mean employers and local governments are natural allies in this respect, nor are all cities encouraging employees to come back into the office. Tech companies, specifically, still need to define their policies clearly. Twitter, for instance, after mandating all workers be in an office for 40 hours a week, was forced to reverse that policy for some. Amazon employees essentially rebelled against a sudden order to be in the office several days a week.

And New York Mayor Eric Adams is apparently rethinking the city's requirement that employees work five days a week in the office. This is because the city is struggling to fill jobs. Adams is instead looking into implementing a hybrid work model, allowing city workers to rotate between days in the office and days at home.

Despite Mixed Signals, Remote Work is Here to Stay

According to a survey from Skynova, 30% of workers want to work remotely fully in 2023 and are actively seeking that opportunity. Of 2,000 employees and employers surveyed by Forbes Advisor, 32% quit for higher pay and 20% quit to work from home. This shows that workers are increasingly looking for better opportunities and are willing to take lower wages in exchange for the flexibility of remote work. This trend is likely to continue as more and more workers realize the benefits of working from home, such as more free time and a better work-life balance.

So while demand for video conferencing tools has slowed as employers readjust and re-evaluate their work-from-home policies, the industry is still quite robust. The proverbial teleworking genie can never be returned to the bottle.