The coronavirus pandemic has forced most of us to change the way we live and work. Gone is the long, grueling commute, and in its place — a Zoom meeting with your boss. But you save money by cutting back on travel, you seem to have more time, and you get to spend it with your family. So, who would want to change all that?
Could working from home be the future of work? Many employees hope so, and many employers now see the potential benefits of working from home (WFH). For many of us, the chances are that those who still have a job — the “new normal” will be to work from home.
But it’s not possible for everyone to work at home. Essential workers, like doctors, store workers, and drivers have no option but to go to work. But even some teaching and medical jobs could easily switch to home working. For example, remote tutoring, telemedicine, and even yoga classes are all possible to do from the comfort of your home.
What is the future of working from home? This article examines how this “new normal” could affect your job prospects.
The Benefits of Working from Home is Nothing New
Even before the coronavirus plunged the country into lockdown, many people realized the benefits of working from home. And, the benefits were nothing to do with getting up at noon and working a few hours in your PJs.
One 2015 study found that, when call-center workers could work from home, their productivity increased by 13%. WFH workers took fewer sick days and also reduced their break time.
Harvard Business Review reported on a study showing that switching to a “work from anywhere” scheme saw a 4.4% increase in productivity. They said this increase could give a $1.3 billion boost to the U.S. economy’s annual value.
Why Working from Home is Now a Reality
In the past, technology was bulky and expensive. Your average office worker didn’t have access to powerful computers. Also, most documents and records were kept in the company’s archive, and remote access was impossible.
In the era of cloud computing, that’s all changed. If you have a laptop and a decent internet connection, you can work from anywhere. Here are a few tools that make WFH initiatives possible:
- Google Drive — Store, share, view documents online. Shared access allows for collaboration on projects and documents.
- Zoom — Hold online video conferencing and meetings. Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts all have similar video calling possibilities.
- Trello — Keep workflow going on projects with this cloud-based task board.
- Slack — Communicate with teams, organize projects, send instant messages, and video calling are some of the benefits of Slack.
Working from Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Covid-19 lockdown and stay-at-home orders meant that companies were forced to send their staff home to work. What do we know about how successful new WFH arrangements are? Is there anything to indicate this will be the future of work? Here are some interesting stats to think about:
- A survey in April 2020 found that 34% of workers were now working from home. Considering the number of employees already working from home, this amounts to about half of the U.S workforce.
- When comparing data from 2019 and 2020, one survey found that some companies experienced a 47% increase in productivity due to WFH arrangements.
- One 2020 study from the United Kingdom found that 56% of WFH workers said they were more productive than when working in the office. For example, ditching the daily commute gave them more time. From those surveyed, 45% wanted to continue flexible working arrangements after the Covid-19 crisis has passed.
True, working from home has its challenges. But for many employees, WFH arrangements have given them an appetite to spend less time in the office and more time working at home.
Is the Future of Work in Your Home Office?
Many companies say working from home will be their “new normal.” And, it’s not just the obvious ones such as tech firms and call centers. Businesses such as banks, telemedicine, food production, media and news outlets, and real estate may make the switch.
Here are the plans that some companies have announced for their “work from home models” for after Covid-19 and beyond:
- Facebook — Mark Zuckerberg said he wants to see up to half of Facebook staff work from home within the next ten years. One reason for the shift is employee desire. However, advances in technology mean that it’s possible to hire staff who don’t live in big cities.
- Twitter — Execs from Twitter have said they will give many of their staff the option to work from home in the future.
- Telemedicine — Telehealth organizations saw an upsurge in remote consultations due to lockdown restrictions. Learning from the experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic, one 2020 report suggested that many patients with nonurgent conditions can receive high-quality health care from a distance.
- Shopify — The CEO of Shopify said the company would keep its offices closed until 2021. After that, most employees will work remotely from home forever.
- Square — Even after offices start to reopen, Square’s CEO has said that employees will have the option to work from anywhere.
Working from Home is Here to Stay
The consensus seems to be working from home is here to stay — at least for many people. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 56% of workers have jobs where remote working is possible. The report estimates that by the end of 2021, up to 30% of the workforce will be working from home.
Before Covid-19, companies were hesitant to send workers home to work. Now, after being forced to give workers WFH options, many companies — large and small — are no longer so “office-centric.” They’re reaping the benefits of work from home policies that include the following:
- Staff no longer have a long commute
- Huge potential cost savings because they require less office space
- Employee wellness and life-balance improves
- Possibilities to expand talent pools
- Increases in productivity
Working from Home and the Future of Work
Soon, many workers’ morning commute will be from the breakfast bar to their home office. Of course, working from a home office or the local coffee shop isn’t suitable for everyone. Some jobs need on-site workers.
But employers are now thinking outside the box. And, we may see more and more jobs being done from home. For example, newsreaders, lawyers, teachers, sports trainers, and doctors — just some of the professions that have morphed into remote positions.
The “new norm” of working from home looks set to stay. WFH arrangements have benefits for both workers and employers.