HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — More companies are embracing long-term or permanent remote work as they forgo brick and mortar locations for a virtual work life.
Aquent, a creative talent staffing agency, announced plans to allow leases at 35 of their offices in North America to expire.
Sarah-Tyler Moore, the agency’s Mid-Atlantic director, supported the company’s decision not to return to their Forest Avenue location in Henrico’s West End.
“Amongst the people who were actually coming into the office, I would say most people were doing one to two days remotely anyway, so it certainly was a jump for us,” Moore explained. “We very quickly decided this is what we have to do to adapt, to be able to still take care of our clients and talents, and now we are all fully remotely.”
Aquent moved toward a virtual workforce during the height of the pandemic to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam continued to strongly encourage businesses to allow their employees to telework during the pandemic if they can do so.
Major companies like Amazon, Facebook and Capital One have already committed non-essential employees to work from home until this Summer.
Aquent CEO John Chuang chose to allow his employees to work remotely to eliminate geographic barriers and increase opportunities for workers.
“I’ve actually gone to know so many people in our organization through working remotely that truthfully I don’t think I would reach out to if we weren’t in this pandemic world,” Moore stated.
However, Senior Economic Advisor Spencer Levy pushed back at the notion that more companies will choose virtual versus face-to-face work. Levy also serves as chairman of Americas Research at CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate company.
“I certainly respect companies that make different choices,” he explained. “Most of the companies are going to make the choice to go back to the office.”
Levy said more CEOs are admitting that long-term remote work isn’t sustainable from a productivity stand point. Levy described the use of office space as a want, and not a need for most companies.
“[Offices] make employees more productive and help you attract and retain talent. It allows you to create a company culture that you want. It allows you to learn the soft skills from communication to networking that you need to advance. Those things aren’t going to change,” Levy stated.
Some health experts have highlighted the burden of back-to-back online meetings, which is often referred to as “Zoom fatigue.” Humans are social animals that crave and need face-to-face interaction, they argued.
Moore believed the benefits of online work outweigh the challenges, especially as a mother.
“I have been able to, as a working mom, go get my kid from daycare a little later since I’m not as far away,” she explained.
Aquent also hired a head of culture and community tasked with ensuring their employees are engaged with one another even while working virtually.
“We have all kinds of fun book clubs. We’ve done a cooking night and we were able to still connect together even though we are remote,” Moore said.