As a result of the pandemic, we shifted to virtual reality, turning to contactless services, primarily online learning, telemedicine, and remote working, yielding a new norm.
Remote working expanded as working from home became a necessity for many reasons. As COVID caused work disruption, many organizations that embraced remote working quickly adapted their employees to a full-time virtual schedule.
Even though many employees are back in the office, remote working arrangements remain a viable and popular option. In 2019, roughly 20% of Americans were remote workers. According to a Zippia study, roughly 50% of workers participate in hybrid work, but 68% of Americans prefer remote work over in-person work. There have been many calls for employees to return to the office for three or four days per week, even now Reflective of the work from the home trend, public transit systems across the country lost significant ridership.
Remote work is only for some, as recent surveys imply. There was more of a learning curve for organizations with new working-from-home arrangements. Companies shifted their employees to work from home with virtual tools for the first time. While CEOs pride themselves on how well they handle the technological aspects, the human element matters much.
Remote Working Is A Growing Trend Likely To Last
Unlike the massive move to online learning for schools, colleges, and universities in March 2020, and primarily reversed, remote working is still growing. Millennials had sought flexible time as a desirable perk. Recent college grads and even Boomers have sought this desirable perk. Working from home is far more geared for specific careers requiring higher education, city dwellers, and higher-income brackets. For example, people working in accounting, finance, and software engineering were more likely to work from home than meatpackers.
Remote working only works for some, even for employees in suitable jobs where working from home is more common.
Remote Work: Advantages And Disadvantages
Alternative work arrangements are valued as long as employees have reliable internet connections. As reported in this survey, the ability to have a more flexible schedule is the most significant benefit, according to 32% of people who regularly work remotely.
Working parents’ desire to work at home tends to be higher than for 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 reasonably easily to working from home.
It is difficult 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 consider starting a family. Autonomy for employees working at home leads to improved job satisfaction.
Better Work/Life Balance
For many, remote working provides a better work/life balance. Start your day earlier by avoiding a potentially long and irritating commute to work. You can work at your own pace, provided it coincides with the job’s priorities. It may be more comfortable to take care of doctor appointments, pick up kids from school, take care of chores at different times, and work when you are most productive and at your best is a great option.
In recent years, remote jobs have provided work/life balance benefits as a top perk. Employers and employees see positive remote work productivity, eliminating the issues employers feared increasing work-from-home job opportunities.
Many employees report increased productivity working from home. Those traits transfer to wherever as long as you have self-discipline and are organized. 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 constantly pestered me by asking, “So what did you accomplish today?” at a very early age. One danger of working at home is that many people say they work longer hours. While it is easy to justify longer work time without commuting, give yourself that needed a break. Take a walk, exercise, or text a friend.
Savings For The Employees
People working from home realize additional savings. According to Global Workplace Analytics, working at home half the time saves $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 may vary depending on how far your commute is and if there are bridge & toll payments. You may save money on your office wardrobes by wearing 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.
We should save time, that precious resource. 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.
Company Cost Savings
A typical employer could save an average of $11,000 annually per half-time telecommuting employee based on estimates from Global Workplace Analytics. During COVID, there may be far more savings than the $11,000 estimate based on drastically reduced travel and entertainment expenditures. Increased productivity, lower real estate taxes, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and better disaster preparedness contribute to those forecasts.
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, 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. Employers can save office rent in high-cost cities like New York, where many midtown commercial buildings remain partially occupied since 2020.
According to the SHRM 2019 Employee Benefits survey, 69% of employers offer remote work ad hoc to at least some employees. However, full-time employees are more than four times more 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.
Flexible Work Options Attract And Retain Talented Employees
Before the coronavirus, there was increased work-at-home demand, especially from young people. It has now become an essential company benefit for many candidates. As a desirable perk for young employees, flexible work offerings help to attract and retain talented employees.
As a result, management may have 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 return to working in an office environment only. Employers need to anticipate more demand for working-from-home options.
Employers Have More Confidence
Many companies may have resisted allowing their employees to work at home to fear lost productivity or lack of essential technology. Findings from a May 2020 study reported that remote work had only a small negative impact on productivity (1%). However, those employees working from home with children reported a slightly more significant decrease (2%) in productivity. In some cases, businesses may have realized some productivity benefits.
Those companies that had already deployed powerful 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 faced operational challenges and needed more disaster planning strategies.
Remote Work As A Desirable Skill
As a remote worker, you will likely develop new and different skills, especially high-in-demand soft skills. Learning to work independently and collaboratively sounds slightly oxymoronic, but it is not. While you may be working alone when home, there are times when you will be working as part of a team.
There will be greater emphasis on communication skills, whether in written, video, or phone calls. Increasingly, many software and apps, such as Slack, can be used to share documents and communicate. Working from home requires more focus to separate yourself from distractions at home and to stay productive, creative thinking, and problem-solving. These are attractive traits to have in your work background.
A Societal Benefit
For companies in congested traffic areas such as Los Angeles, offering employees alternative working options would be considered 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, reduced business travel to meetings and conferences may affect our energy consumption. This energy change has resulted in a better environment from reduced commercial and educational sources since COVID began.
However, not all employees want to work from home. It became necessary for workers to work remotely due to COVID. Initially, some firms had to prepare for this change. Other organizations have been allowing remote working for years. In a Robert Hall survey, 47% of employees said that the company provides that option. Of that 47%, 76% take advantage of the perk, either working at home or elsewhere. However, 24% of employees did not opt to work outside the office.
- They did not have adequate technology available at home (39%).
- Workers are less productive working from home (38%).
- Fear of missing out on opportunities or assignments if they were outside the office (29%).
- Employees felt lonely and missed interaction in the office (22%).
We will address each of these and other disadvantages.
Remote Work Only Work For New Hires With Some Training.
Starting your first job out of college, career, or internship is often challenging. Thrown into a new environment with new people, management, and new systems, it takes time to learn who are your colleagues, boss, and priorities. You feel like a fish out of water. However, working remotely for a new employee for the first time may be too overwhelming, even for the most confident person.
For example, Google has said they intend to keep employees working from home until mid-2021. At a minimum, these organizations must make exceptions for new hires to acclimate them to the home office for some time. Management needs to be sensitive to increased communication, clarity about the priorities, and sharing their expectations with new employees.
Lack Of Adequate Technology At Home
Access to broadband Internet in rural and poor communities remains a problem. According to the FCC, about 70% of the US population in rural markets had broadband and mobile access in 2018. The digital divide became far more visible during the pandemic due to the lack of high-speed connections. Some work-at-home employees may rely on satellite connections or travel to the next town to a library to get links to participate in video conference calls. Some families may need help to afford subscription services, internet capacity, or equipment to work from home. They may have been using mobile devices that are not suitable for work.
Employees, not just new hires, have expressed isolation when working at home. There are fewer chances for employees to be engaged or socialize with others when working from home. The camaraderie at the office is often a big motivator but is more awkward when everyone is at different locations. Zoom calls can be challenging when some people have dogs or kids in the background.
Now that remote work is more common, many employees prefer hybrid work arrangements to returning to the office.
Difficult To Unplug From Work
While a work-life balance is usually an advantage of working from home, some find it difficult to separate their career and personal life. You may work longer hours because you are not commuting and have free time. What sometimes helps is to write out my to-do list for the following day as a final task in the evening.
Plenty of distractions around my house remind me that I work from home. I block it out during the day, but I usually get a tap from the dog or one of my kids telling me it is time to have dinner. Having boundaries between my physical desk and home life is a good idea, but my husband commandeered the house’s best space.
The rapid move to remote working for many organizations happened quickly due to the pandemic. Working from home was already a growing trend and, for many, a desirable perk. Remote working has many advantages, but it is only for some. Management may improve the work-from-home experience simply by being more sensitive to employee needs.
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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.