Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 7% of workers in the U.S. had the flexibility to work from home – according to a report by the Pew Research Center based on data from the National Compensation Survey.
However, millions more are adapting to working from their kitchen tables, spare bedrooms and home offices due to office-closures and shelter-in-place orders. Coronavirus transformed the work landscape almost overnight – but will things stay this way?
Let’s take a look into some of the reasons why it took a major worldwide pandemic to shift many workplaces towards remote work – and why this new style of working might be around for the long term.
Why Were Businesses Hesitant To Allow Employees To Work From Home Before Coronavirus?
While many businesses had the option to let their employees work from home, they have been hesitant to switch over to this model. What were some of their reservations?
- Many employers were worried about productivity. They were concerned employees wouldn’t get as much done and would waste time if they were allowed to work unsupervised.
- Employers were also concerned about not being able to communicate effectively with team members.
- They also assumed that switching to remote work would be too big of a change to handle.
- Another concern was the need to invest in new technology and software to make remote working possible.
These concerns, and others, kept many businesses from taking the leap to remote work. When the COVID-19 global pandemic hit, it gave many businesses no choice but to address their hesitations and switch to the work from home model.
Reasons Why Working From Home May Continue After Coronavirus is Over
So, now that many businesses have switched over to working from home in order to comply with lockdown rules during the pandemic – will these habits stay? Will we continue to work from home – even when it’s not required?
There are certainly many reasons why working from home may continue after COVID-19, such as:
Employers Have Invested In It
Companies have set up the means, processes and technology their teams need to work from home. Coronavirus made it necessary. This transition likely included purchasing new technology and software, setting up new schedules and routines, and establishing workflows.
Since they have invested time, energy and capital into working from home, they will be more likely to stick with it when all this is over. After all, why not take advantage of what has already been established?
The huge advantage to remote work is that the benefits and lower costs of these systems only compound as the scale of the company grows. Building a distributed team now means a company will be ideally set up for growth over the next several years.
Working from home is better for preventing the spread of diseases. This doesn’t just include COVID-19 but also applies to any other colds, flu, and illnesses.
Many office workers have felt the pressure to show up to work, even when they are feeling under the weather.
With a newfound focus on our collective health, perhaps workplaces will want to reduce instances of coworkers bringing their coughs and sniffles to the office.
It’s Better For The Environment
If more businesses switched to a work from home system over the long term, the environment could see some major benefits.
For example, if an employee has an average daily roundtrip work commute of 30 miles, according to Stanford’s carbon emissions calculator they will be emitting 330lbs of carbon dioxide emissions every month. That’s nearly four thousand pounds per year! Working from home will eliminate those carbon emissions immediately (as well as save you money on fuel!)
In addition, if everyone worked from home, there would be no need to use resources and valuable land to build large office buildings. Our homes would do double duty as our offices instead, and we could use office space for other purposes.
It’s Good For Employee Happiness
Another reason why working from home might stick around is because it makes employees happy. When your employees are happier, they are more productive and more likely to be loyal to your organization.
According to a study by Owl Labs called “The Global State of Remote Work,” full-time remote workers say they are happy in their jobs 29% more than on-site workers. After all, working from home can often allow for a better work-life balance, less office drama and a lot less stress.
Even just not having to brave a cold morning commute can be a happiness-booster for employees. Instead, they can get a bit of extra sleep, make a delicious home-cooked breakfast and log into their workplace while still wearing their favorite pair of fuzzy slippers.
It Improves Productivity
Many companies have been worried that their employees would be less productive when working from home. They were concerned that employees would abuse the arrangement, not working a full shift or not focusing on the tasks.
However, research has found that the opposite is true. People who work from home have actually proven to be MORE productive.
In fact, according to a study conducted by Airtasker, remote employees work 1.4 extra days a month than employees in an office – resulting in more than three additional weeks of output per year. Employees working from home often face fewer distractions and can focus on their work in a more meaningful, self-directed way.
It Saves Money
The truth is that many organizations make decisions with the bottom line in mind. Considering this, there is something to be said for how much money working from home can save the business.
There’s no need for the company to pay for office space, supplies, electricity, computers or any of the other expenses that keep the office running. Real estate needs are reduced significantly when only a handful of vital employees need to remain onsite. Overhead can be drastically reduced, allowing companies to allocate that capital elsewhere.
For example, when the company Trip.com (previously CTrip) experimented with letting their employees work from home, they figured that they saved around $2,000 per year per employee on office space. The findings were published in a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Of course, the other benefits of remote work, such as improved employee loyalty and productivity, will also influence the bottom line in a positive way. Overall, the work from home model is much more effective and efficient.
It Allows Companies to Hire Better Talent
Another huge advantage to working with a remote team is that your hiring options are no longer limited to your physical location. You can hire the best person for the job, no matter where they are located. This will allow you to build an incredibly strong team of people around the world who are the best at what they do.
Also, a flexible work from home policy itself attracts better talent. When word gets out that you allow your employees the freedom to work from anywhere they please. This can make your company more desirable to work with.
It Creates Opportunities for Diversity
Last but definitely not least, working from home is offering us incredible opportunities to improve workplace diversity. The online work environment can be free of bias and microaggressions, making it more comfortable
Remote work makes it easier to employ talent from different countries all over the world – adding a global perspective to your team. Team members can be hired from anywhere and bias is reduced, as accents can’t be heard when you type. When employees work remotely, the focus is on their output rather than their appearance, age, gender, ethnicity or any other factor.
Also, women are able to return to work sooner after having a baby or while caring for family members. Employees with disabilities are able to avoid the commute to the office and work in their home environment, which is already designed for their needs. They can also fit their physiotherapy or doctor appointments into their schedule more easily.
Even when we CAN go back to our offices eventually, we should ask ourselves whether we SHOULD. There are a lot of advantages to working remotely that are worth considering.
Perhaps this necessary shift towards working from home was the nudge we needed all along to transition toward a better system. Remote working might just stick around – and the days of the office may be coming to an end.
Next section: How to Build a Home Office
Go back: Work From Home Guide
National Compensation Survey 2019
The Global State of Remote Work 2019 by OwlLabs
Stanford’s carbon emissions calculator
National Bureau of Economic Research
The Benefits of Working From Home Report by Airtasker