The Covid-19 pandemic may well have changed how we work forever. Approximately 40% of the American workforce is able to work from home but up until the pandemic hit many employers were reluctant to take the plunge and allow their employees to do so. Reasons for this ranged from concerns about technology to worries about employee productivity. Covid-19 forced their hand, however, and the new work-from-home culture has relieved that none of those concerns played out. In fact, work-from-home may well become the new normal.
For employees, working from home can have all sorts of benefits. In fact, 77% of the workforce want to continue working from home at least weekly (source) and only 12% want to go back to the office full time (source). It is easy to see why. Working from home means gaining back that hour’s commute to the office, which gives employees more time to do the things they love or be with the people they love. Fewer people clogging up the highways twice a day will, of course, also be good for the environment.
Working from home means having more flexibility and a stronger work-life balance, which is something that a lot of people have been craving for a very long time. And, really, with the technology available to us now, there is no need to arrive at an office at 8 am and leave at 5 pm. Now companies have had a reason to engage with these technologies, they are able to see how doable working from home really is. Contrary to worries about productivity, most tasks can be done remotely without losing productivity or quality. In fact, for companies, having the majority of their workforce working from home can help them to operate more efficiently as well. As Tobia Lutke, CEO of Shopify, said “office eccentricity is over”.
With Twitter and Facebook both announced that they intend to allow their employees to work from home “forever”, the tide really does seem to be turning, and many other companies will likely follow suit. After the pandemic is over, many companies are planning on embracing a hybrid virtual model. This involves having a percentage of the workforce working remotely either all of the time or some of the time and a core group of people who always work in the office. With a model like this, it is important not to lose sight of the challenges that come along with working from home, the biggest of which is the loss of social interaction.
When people work from home, they lose the chance to have the sorts of organic interactions that you have in the corridor, at people’s desks, or not eh way to get coffee. This can mean that those working remotely can feel separated from the workplace culture and could lose the chance to get involved in certain projects. Fully embracing the interactivity of technology can go some way to helping remote workers have these sorts of interactions more often. For example, having regular team video calls that are just for chatting with no agenda or creating group chats where employees have the space to chat can help people working from home and those in the office to share ideas and bond with each other.
Employees who work from home can also experience other challenges. For example, the workday can often get extended when working from home. It can be easy to let a task bleed into taking two hours instead of one when not in the office, but this means in practice that remote workers can sometimes end up with less free time because their workday ends later than it should. With practice and strong office culture, however, this can also be overcome. When the pandemic first started, a lot of people started working from home ad hoc at the kitchen table, but over time people are developing clear office spaces that allow them to separate work life from home life, even if they are in the same house!
The way we work will likely never be the same again. Now we have experienced the benefits that come with working from home, we can’t put the genie back in the bottle. More and more companies are developing clear models that allow a big percentage of their workforce to work from home, and remote employees are finding ways to really embrace the flexibility and work-life balance that comes with home working. Working from home really is the new normal, and so many people will be happier for it!