For the past year, COVID-19 has dominated the headlines and changed how we do just about everything, from healthcare to employment to entertainment. Though new cases have begun to slowly inch back down while vaccines are being distributed, doctors and other healthcare experts warn that we could be seeing the effects of the pandemic well into 2022.
One big change we’ve seen is how we work. Once it became unsafe for people to attend their jobs, workers were either furloughed – like in the case of the restaurant industry – or directed to work remotely until further notice. One year living with the virus, we’re still seeing thousands of employees working from their home offices (or really wherever they choose).
A recent study by Upwork reports that as of December 2020, 41.8% of the U.S. workforce is fully remote. Not only that, but it’s also expected that by 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely, which is an 87% increase from before the pandemic. At some point, remote work won’t be a necessity anymore – but has it become so engrained in our daily lives that we’re unwilling to give it up? And have the effects on businesses and employees been positive or negative?
In The Future of Work (From Home) series, we’ll be examining the pros and cons of working remotely for employers and employees, and how the culture of remote work may impact the economy. Our goal is to provide as much information as possible so you can decide whether remote work is right for your career or business.
PROS FOR REMOTE WORK
Higher employee satisfaction
When allowed to work from home, employees tend to be happier and more engaged because certain stressors, like commuting or office politics, are reduced or removed completely in some cases. In fact, one survey by GoTo and LogMeIn reported that some workers (62% of U.S. respondents) are so pro-remote work that they’d be willing to take a pay cut. The survey also mentions that remote work allows for a more flexible schedule, the ability to wear what you want, and time to de-stress between meetings – which all contributes to the overall happiness of employees.
One of the most compelling arguments in support of remote work is how cost-effective it can be for both parties. Some studies have shown that employees and employers can each save thousands of dollars by working remotely. Below, we outline how each can save money by instituting a WFH (work-from-home) policy.
- Lower office-related costs. Having a reduced in-house roster means businesses won’t have to spend as much on office space or other related costs like supplies or snacks. Even if you can’t go fully remote, you can opt to lease a smaller space and reallocate those funds elsewhere.
- Spend less on hiring by increasing retention. As mentioned above, offering a WFH option can lead to higher employee satisfaction, making them less likely to seek employment somewhere else. By having a better retention rate, you’ll see lower costs related to hiring.
- Rethink compensation structure. When transitioning to remote operations, some managers may choose to rethink how they’re compensating employees. It may no longer be necessary to account for some factors like commuter costs or cost of living raises (depending on where the employee is located).
- Remove transportation costs. If working from home, there will be no need to spend money on commuting, whether you drive or take public transportation. This is one of the biggest expense’s employees face when going into an office.
- Spend less on eating from restaurants and cafés. Rather than leaving the office to buy coffee or lunch, you can save on daily meals and snacks by eating at home. The money you spend on dining out will outweigh what you spend on groceries.
- Reduce personal upkeep costs. Though you might not want to sit around in sweatpants all day, by working remotely, you’ll lower the amount of wear and tear on your business attire and other accessories like jackets, shoes, and bags.
While it’s still up for debate, several employees and managers say that productivity levels have increased since implementing a remote work strategy. This could be because of reasons like limited office distractions, less reason for absences, and a more relaxing environment. As we learn about how remote operations impacts the workforce, it’s likely that the future of work will be more focused on the quality and quantity or work done as opposed to the hours put in.
Improve skills and independence
For some, remote work is going to be a sink or swim moment; can you adapt to the new technologies, like video conferencing software? Can you prioritize email/phone communication? Are you able to independently manage your schedule? Everyone who works out of the office is faced with these questions – but if you rise to the task, you can prove yourself as a valuable and hardworking employee even amidst adversity.
Right now, the question isn’t if remote operations will be included in the future of work, it’s how much it will be included. With several advantages for all involved, it seems like the natural next step in employment perks. But what about the disadvantages? Can employees and businesses suffer because of remote work? Find out in the next part of our series, The Future of Work (From Home): Part 2. Be sure to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss out.