Will Working From Home Become the New Norm?June 10, 2020
For a long time, there has been a stigma around working from home. Worries over efficiency, teamwork, and distractions all made working from home seem to be a detriment to any good business. Instead, it was only reserved for those with a history of responsibility. But the Coronavirus has changed all that, forcing many individuals to work from home, and the experience has undoubtedly changed the way we think about working from home. Several companies, Twitter prominently among them, have decided to allow their workers to work from home permanently if they so desire.
With changes in work structure as such becoming more common, the question is, will the switch to working from home be a widely accepted change, traveling further than just the Silicon Valley companies?
The Great Work-From-Home-Experiment
According to a 2016 Gallup survey, 43% of employees worked from home in some capacity, but this was generally once or twice a month. The Coronavirus crisis has changed those numbers dramatically. Gallup data from April shows 63% of employees have been working from home in the last seven days. But the switch to remote work has not been seamless. Concerns about efficiency and technical issues abound. Platforms like Zoom have been chastised for their lack of security, and the quick switch has resulted in some drops in efficiency.
Despite these concerns, the remote work business has boomed, much of it due to an incredible supply of powerful work-from-home tools. Tools like Slack® and SmartSheet® have made the transition much easier, and as a result, have seen an avalanche of new and recurring users. Microsoft® reported that the number of calls through their Microsoft Teams® had increased 1,000 percent, a number too staggering to signal a stop. They also claim that the percentage of users turning their cameras on has increased dramatically. Both of these statistics show a growing comfort with using virtual meetings. While some of the awkwardness of talking through a computer screen remains, these are undoubtedly the first steps to normalizing remote work and video conferencing.
The worries about the effectiveness of remote work have long prevented it from entering the public sphere in a major way. It is a difficult question about how to manage accountability, and common wisdom would claim that working from home makes it easier than ever to slack off. After all, the person who was once leaning over your shoulder or popping by your workspace is now gone. There is nothing to prevent you from browsing Facebook for an hour. However, studies have proven that working from home is largely effective and good for the morale of employees. A recent study of 3,500 remote workers found that the majority prefer working remotely, with 98% claiming they were willing to recommend working remotely to others. One of the largest boosts to morale that working from home provides is freedom from the commute. Researchers have found that adding 20 minutes to a commute can make you as miserable as getting a 19% pay cut.
But the question remains of whether or not one can truly be productive working from home. Many studies say yes, but still, some conventional wisdom says the opposite. Less interaction with coworkers, less pressure from a supervisor, among other benefits associated with being in the same place – a business is a team effort after all. If people are separated, how is it possible that they can be anywhere near as effective as people who are face to face and working hand in hand?
True to their names, many of the companies that have begun to allow employees to work from home full-time are Silicon Valley companies, and they seem to disagree with conventional wisdom. At the beginning of May, Twitter stated that they would allow any employees who wanted to work remotely to do so. Facebook has made a similar statement, allowing their employees to work through the end of the year remotely. However, they have an interesting catch. Depending on where their employees live, their pay will be affected. Someone living in North Dakota will be making less than someone living in San Francisco. This accounts for the different costs of living in the two areas. This highlights one of the many benefits to employers of remote work – the option to pay based on location. Not everyone needs a $100,000 salary for a one-bedroom apartment.
Speaking of expensive buildings, another benefit of remote work is that employers are able to cut down on their office space. Office space in big cities like New York or San Francisco is colossally expensive. In New York, office space costs about $6.16 per square foot, totaling about $14,000 for each employee a year. Knowing this makes it easy to see why it is tempting for employers to take their employees online. Even more traditional businesses like Morgan Stanley have decided to take advantage of the boom in work from home technology. Who can resist saving the amounts of money that a reduction in office space can provide in expensive cities? These companies are setting trends for the work of the future, and it is likely that some other companies will follow in their footsteps. After all, it makes hiring the best employees easier by offering them more freedom, and other companies will have to compete with that freedom in other ways if they do not offer remote work.
Here to Stay: Probably
The Coronavirus pandemic has made the benefits of remote work clearer than ever, despite the concerns of lost productivity. Some benefits, such as the need for less office space and the recruiting benefits are simply too hard to ignore, and with the rise of dozens of new productivity tools, working from home has never been easier.
If you are looking for a new work from home job, check out our list of 8 legitimate work from home jobs.
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