The COVID-19 pandemic completely changed the way we think about work and where it must be done. Despite millions of employees being banned from office buildings, businesses continued to operate normally during lockdowns. In fact, the pandemic illustrated just how successful employees can be when they work at home. With life slowly returning to normal, can we expect working from home to become more accepted at U.S companies?
What Employees Want
Although adjusting to working at home wasn’t easy at first, employees soon adapted to their new circumstances. Zoom meetings, texts and emails made it possible to work without face-to-face contact with other employees. In fact, many employees found it easier to work at home, particularly if there were fewer distractions.
Working from home made life more convenient. It was easy to take a short break to pick up the kids from school (when school was in session), do laundry while you worked or start dinner. A furniture delivery or home repair no longer meant you had to take time off from work.
As companies started talking about gradually bringing employees back to work, social media was filled with posts from people dreading the return to the structure of the work world. Many hated the thought of commuting or wondered how they’d ever adjust to wearing real pants or high heels again. Of course, not everyone felt that way. Some people eagerly looked forward to the day they could return to work, citing distractions at home and a lack of social opportunities.
After spending more than a year at home, many employees would prefer to work at home, at least part of the time. Fifty-four percent of Americans who responded to a Pew Research Center survey said that they wanted to continue to work at home.
Seventy-seven percent of employees surveyed by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics said that they would be happier working from home after COVID-19 restrictions end. Twenty-three percent of employees would even be willing to take a 10 percent pay cut to stay home.
What Employers Want
Supervisors who long believed that employees could only be productive if they were directly supervised had their beliefs challenged during the past year. In most cases, it turned out it was possible to do a good job even if the boss couldn’t wander past your desk as you worked.
Although some employers are permitting employees to continue to work from home, others have several concerns, including:
- Loss of Control: The COVID-19 pandemic may have proved that it’s possible to work from home, but that doesn’t mean that some supervisors and companies like the idea. Business leaders who believe that working in the office is the ideal way to control and manage their workforces are reluctant to make the switch.
- Miscommunication: It’s certainly much easier to clear up an issue in person rather than through email or text messages. Miscommunications can lead to missed deadlines and project delays.
- Team Building: Working from home can strain social relationships and camaraderie, which some bosses fear could eventually affect productivity.
- Training Issues: Training new employees can be challenging without face-to-face interaction.
What Will Happen
There’s no doubt working from home will become more popular even after it’s no longer necessary. In fact, Microsoft, Facebook, Infosys, Salesforce, Siemens and other companies have announced that employees may work from home permanently. Forty-seven percent of employers surveyed by Gartner reported that they would allow employees to work from home full time in the future. Even if full time remote work isn’t offered, companies may be willing to consider a hybrid approach where employees only travel to the office two or three days per week.
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