The Covid-19 pandemic could reshape the future of how you work. When the country went into lockdown in March, many businesses had to allow employees to work from home. Are we witnessing the birth of a new work-from-home economy?
Now, more than four months into lockdown, many people enjoy the freedom that working from home brings. And, who wouldn’t — no exhausting commute or dealing with workplace politics. You also save time and money, and you seem to be more productive as well. Even your boss seems more relaxed.
Will working from home (WFH) continue past the coronavirus pandemic? This article aims to look at current trends and predictions about a possible new WFH economy.
Working from Home — The Benefits
During the coronavirus pandemic, working from home highlighted what many business leaders have known for years — a work-from-home economy has many advantages. The benefits of a WFH policy include cost savings, better work-life balance, and increased productivity.
A 2014 study examined the overall effect if staff had the option to work from home. At one call center, 500 employees were divided into two groups. One group continued to work from the office and the other from home. After six months, the researchers found surprising results.
Here’s what the researchers found from those employees who worked from home:
- Homeworking led to a 13% increase in performance.
- Those who were working from home took fewer sick days and breaks.
- WFH employees reported better job satisfaction
There were also benefits for employers when staff worked from home. For example, the company was able to save $2,000 annually per employee.
Covid-19 and the New Work from Home Economy
The outbreak of the coronavirus meant that most organizations had to find WFH solutions. Staff couldn’t come to work, public transport was minimal, and even if you could go to work, there’s the ongoing risk of catching the virus.
What do trends during the Covid-19 pandemic tell us about the ‘new norm’ – ditching the commute to work from home?
According to Stanford analyst Nicholas Bloom, around 42% of the workforce in the US was working from home during Covid-19.
But some reports put the number of people currently working from home even higher. A survey in April 2020 found that 34% of people had started working from home due to lockdown orders. Considering that 15% surveyed already worked from home, over half of employees could be remote workers.
Of course, not everyone can work from home. But even some traditional ‘on-site’ jobs are finding solutions to remote work. For example, taking up remote teaching jobs, online yoga instructors, or doctors offering telehealth consultations.
Related reading: Is working from home here to stay?
Working from Home — Trends and Predictions
What does current opinion tell us as to the future of the new work-from-home economy?
Employees want to work from home
It seems unlikely that working practices will return to something similar in pre-coronavirus days. Employees have gotten a taste for working from home — even if it’s from a closet they’ve converted into an office. Also, employers see a ton of benefits from having a more remote workforce.
A nationwide survey in April 2020 revealed that working from home could be part of the new economy. Here are some interesting stats from the study:
- Nearly 50% of workers before Covid-19 emerged had never worked from home.
- During the pandemic, over 54% of employees said they now want to work from home — at least part of the time or full-time.
- The top three reasons for choosing to work from home were not commuting, enjoying a flexible schedule, and being more productive.
Employers want staff to work from home
What about business leaders? It also seems there’s an appetite for creating flexible WFH policies on their end as well.
A survey in global trends affecting working from home found that most businesses are at least considering more WFH opportunities. For example, some analysts estimate that by the end of 2021, 30% of the workplace won’t need to leave home to work.
One of the most significant incentives to encourage working from home is — you’ve guessed it — money. The average savings for employers could amount to $11,000 per year for each employee. If employees worked remotely for half of the time, they could save up to $4,000 on travel — and even more if they moved to a less expensive area and continued remote work.
The daily savings to the U.S. economy could be a whopping $30 billion a day.
The Future of Working from Home — The Challenges
Working from home is becoming the ‘new norm’ as more of us are using a makeshift office at home. But to make the change, it’s vital to address issues that working from home brings. So, what challenges does the new work from home trend face? Here are a few:
- Home office — A quiet, peaceful office space is vital to work from home. Many WFH employees lack sufficient space to set up a home office.
- Connectivity — Some surveys estimate that 45% of US households don’t have sufficient internet speed for video conferencing. A surprising one-third of people don’t have fast enough broadband speeds to work at home.
- Psychological impact — Although working from home has many benefits, WFM employees can feel isolated. If your office is in your house, you may find it challenging to keep the balance between work and life.
- Motivation —It may be harder for some people to work from home than others. For example, studies suggest that certain personality traits could lead to ‘cyberslacking.’ For some, self-motivation, putting things off, distractions could hinder rather than boost productivity.
The New Work-From-Home Economy: A Takeaway
None knows for sure how many of us will be working from home after the Covid-19 pandemic ends. But trends show a shift towards a work-from-home economy that’ll benefit both businesses and employees.