Back in August of 2020 I published search data over time showing the top concerns about remote work. The data covered the previous 12 months, so it was clear to see which spiked when the pandemic hit and how much. It was surprising to see how “remote work”, which had existed for years, only had about 1-3 searches per week before the pandemic and hit about 1,000 after it. Other terms such as “productivity”, “virtual meetings”, and “post covid” had sudden increases in searches as well.
I was interested to see how these concerns were being reflected in Gartner.com searches 2 years later, so I repeated the exercise and published a new set of charts, extending the line chart that started in July 2019 to now stretch to June 2022. Clients can see the results in “Infographic: Remote Work — How 2020 Concerns Have Evolved.
Which Trends Have Persisted?
Most of the spikes have disappeared. For example, searches on “meeting solutions” peaked around April 2020 and quickly dropped to minimal levels, with another quick spike around January about a third as high as April’s. “Virtual conferences” went back to a low level pretty quickly. And “Post COVID sadly trailed off as the realization set in that there is no such thing as “Post COVID”; it’s just COVID.
So what changes in interest have persisted? “Productivity” had a second peak in March 2022 at about the same level as its previous peak in May 2020. A lot of this was searches about developer productivity, but there is also a renewed focus on employees represented in the chart.
“Future of work” has been the most resilient concern. While not hitting its June 2020 peak, it was at almost the same level in June 2021. And although it has settled down since then, the number of weekly searches is clearly at a new and sustained level much higher than before the pandemic.
I also added some new terms we just didn’t know to ask about mid-2020, such as “hybrid work” and “metaverse”. Both of these now represent considerable interest. It’s easy to see on the chart when Facebook changed its name to Meta in October 2021, as client interest was piqued – then peaked before dropping a bit.
The largest new trend that I found: Ukraine.
I’ll leave it there for now. No, I’m not “quiet quitting” (the latest emerging search), just getting back to work.
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Some concerns about remote work are fueled by vested interests. As an example, in the Financial Services sector, the exposure created by the rapid decline in urban office occupancy has many who invested in commercial real estate worried about the long-term implications.
Several pension funds have already started to divest their holdings in office space related investments. More are likely to follow their lead. The CEO of JP Morgan and others with exposure to under-utilized buildings in NYC are very concerned about the office occupancy decline’s impact on property values.