If the coronavirus has taught us one lesson, it is our need for adaptability. Virtually all aspects of our lives have had to change. By failing to change, we potentially expose ourselves to a deadly virus. Hopefully, predictions are less dire than some fear. There are benefits to be reaped from every disaster. A dramatic move to distance learning for educators and students is one positive outcome.
Another positive result is the potential advancement of remote working allowed by small-to-large employers in this post-COVID world. With 56% of the American workforce holding jobs that could be done from home, 75 million employees could be working remotely, saving employers $30 billion per day. There are advantages for both employees and employers in having work-at-home options. The necessity for social distancing may prove to be the tipping point for increased remote working arrangements.
Flexible time has already been a desirable company perk for college grads, Millennials, and even Boomers. Expect new college grads, including GenZers, to seek flexible work options as well. This trend has increased by 91% for employees in the last ten years. However, remote working tends to be more available for specific careers such as accountants and software engineers. Perks like flex-time are more common for those earning high incomes. About 75% of employees working from home earn over $65K.
Employees Are Increasing Seeking Flexible Work Options
Statistics about the direction of remote working were compelling before the coronavirus outbreak. Here are recent numbers based on various surveys:
- In Gallup’s 2016 report, 43% of employees work remotely with some frequency. Since 2016, the Gallup State of American Workplace reports that the amount of time working at home has increased.
- As technology expands, 62% of employees say they could work remotely, according to a later poll by Citrix in 2019.
- 35% would change jobs for the opportunity to work from home at least some of the time, with Millennials having a greater preference at 47% compared to Boomers at 31%.
- One-third of workers would be willing to take a 5% pay cut in exchange for the option to work from home at least part of the time—State of Remote Work 2019, Owl Labs.
Advantages Of Remote Working
Alternative work arrangements are valued as long as employees have reliable internet connections. The ability to have a more flexible schedule is the most significant benefit according to 32% of people who regularly work remotely as reported in a 2020 Remote Work survey. For working parents, the desire for working at home tends to be higher than people without children. Working at home tends to be less stressful. Avoiding lengthy commutes reduces angst while saving time and money. As a result of the virus outbreak and social distancing, many workers could transition fairly easily to working from home.
It is challenging for young people seeking desirable jobs in San Francisco and New York City to find affordable apartments or homes. Working from home at least part of the time could be their solution. Eliminating some commuting time would be a game-changer, especially if they are thinking about starting a family. Autonomy for employees working at home leads to improved job satisfaction.
Many employees report increased productivity working from home. If you have self-discipline, chances are those traits transfer to wherever it is that you work. Distractions at the office occur beyond the water cooler. Gossip, office politics, meetings, and calls often threw me off my game when I worked on Wall Street. I was far more productive late at night or over the weekend when I tuned everything out, but the work needed to get done.
To be productive at home may require some self-discipline. Prioritize your “must-do” work first. Then manage your time to maximize your achievements fully. I can thank my mom, who always pestered me by asking “So what did you accomplish today?” at a very early age. One danger of working home is that many people say they work longer hours. While it is easy to justify longer work time without the commuting time, give yourself that needed break. Take a walk, exercise, or text a friend.
People working from home realize additional savings. According to Global Workplace Analytics, working at home half the time results in savings of $2,500-$4,000 per year. The reduced costs stem from less travel, parking, and food. These savings are net of expenditures for the home, such as additional energy and food costs. These outlays may vary depending on how far your commute is and if there are bridge & toll payments. You may even save money on your office wardrobes by staying in casual clothes or PJs. Remember to put these savings into your emergency funds account and invest in accessible liquid securities. We discuss why you need an emergency fund and where to invest your account here.
Time is a precious resource and worth saving. If you work remotely half the time, Analytics estimates you save the equivalent of 11 workdays based on lower commuting time. Who wouldn’t want to get those days back? There is a close relationship between time, money, and productivity.
However, not all employees want to work from home. In a Robert Hall survey, 47% of employees surveyed said that the company provides that option. Of that 47%, 76% do take advantage of the perk either working at home or elsewhere. However, 24% of employees did not opt to work outside of the office.
- They did not have adequate technology available at home (39%).
- Workers are not as productive working from home (38%).
- Fear on missing out on opportunities or assignments if they were not in the office (29%).
- Working at home can be lonely and missing interaction in the office (22%).
Employers Who Offer Remote Working Options To Employees
According to the SHRM 2019 Employee Benefits survey, 69% of employers offer remote work on an ad hoc basis to at least some employees. However, full-time employees are more than four times likely to get those options. Post- COVID, many employers will have had more experience and confidence to offer remote working options. Giving employees greater autonomy from working at home leads to better job satisfaction and reduced turnover, a significant benefit for employers.
Demand For Increased Working-At-Home Options
Before the coronavirus, many people sought flexible work options, including work-from-home. It is a desirable company benefit for many candidates. Many companies have allowed their employees to work from home during the virus for the first time.
As a result, management may be having positive experiences with remote working options. They have been able to test the resilience and productivity of their employees. With positive results, they may be more willing to encourage telecommuting. It is foreseeable that those employees who worked from home will not readily go back to working in an office environment only. Employers need to anticipate more demand for working from home options.
Many companies may have resisted allowing their employees to work at home to fear lost productivity or lack of essential technology. However, due to many employees who have been able to work from home, businesses may have realized some productivity benefits.
Those companies that had already deployed robust technology for their workers may have been more prepared for the challenges. Technology for employees requires support with web-based teleconferencing and video conference platforms. Other companies may have been more flatfooted and unable to move to a “Plan B.” These companies will need to further develop better disaster planning strategies.
Technology Is Readily Available But Are Protocols?
Telecommuting has better support from video conferencing providers–Zoom, RingCentral, Webex, DocuSign–than ten years ago. Firms can more readily address remote working with confidence if they put some protocols in place. Employees need to understand rules such as access to corporate files, availability to managers, pay for additional data, and other cost considerations.
Company Cost Savings
A typical employer could save an average of $11,000 annually per half-time telecommuting per employee based on estimates from Global Workplace Analytics. Those forecasted amounts are derived from increased productivity, lower real estate taxes, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and better disaster preparedness.
Employers are encouraged to use this Free Telework Savings Calculator which has received accolades from Congress. The comprehensive calculator allows employers to quantify benefits based on US census data from states, cities, or even counties and congressional districts with 59 variables. For example, to calculate real estate savings, employers can change assumptions based on average office size, $/square foot, person/desk ratio, and other related variables and locations.
A Societal Benefit
For companies in congested traffic areas such as Los Angeles, offering alternative working options for employees would be seen as an eco-friendly move. All organizations need to play their part in battling climate change by reducing their carbon footprint. Besides day-to-day commuting, there may be reduced business travel to meetings and conferences, reducing our energy consumption.
The rapid move to remote working for many organizations may enhance their bounce back faster post the virus. Covid-19 may serve as the tipping point for a trend towards alternative working arrangements that were already in demand. We will likely see that the benefits experienced by employees and employers are worth the downside of giving their workers more autonomy and improved job satisfaction. This virus may have crippled our economy, but there may be some positive outcomes as America goes back to work.
Thank you for reading!
With a passion for investing and personal finance, I began The Cents of Money to help and teach others. My experience as an equity analyst, professor, and mom provide me with unique insights about money and wealth creation and a desire to share with you.