The world has found itself in an unprecedented situation during Covid-19, where companies have implemented changes to shift their traditional working style to remote working. According to a MIT study, by the first week of April 2020, nearly 34% of all Americans were working from home due to coronavirus [1]. A University of Chicago paper suggests that this is the same percentage of people who have the ability to work from home [2]. These new numbers represent a seismic shift in work culture. Regardless of its current popularity, work-from-home has been gaining momentum incrementally for years, as technology and company cultures increasingly accommodate it. From 2015 to 2020, the United States (US) has seen a 21% rise in remote workforce and 44% rise in work-from-home projects [3]. It is likely that many employees who are working from home will continue to do so after the pandemic. Furthermore, the necessity of working from home has led employers and employees to spend on improved technology, home offices, training and data-security.  

Having spent a quarter in the pandemic period, major companies, including Mondelez, Nationwide and Barclays [4], have looked into the possibility of transitioning the majority of their workforce into remote workers, post Covid-19. During this quarter, corporations are seeing proof that productivity does not suffer, and realizing that employees may not need to return to offices to perform their tasks. On 30th April 2020, Tata Consultancy Service announced that 75% of their workforce would transition to remote workers by 2025 [5].

This article seeks to explore the prospect of more businesses transitioning a majority of their workforce to remote workers post Covid-19. 

Is work-from-home better than a traditional office job?

A 2018 study on employee engagement shows that nearly 53% of US workers are not engaged in their workplace, i.e., they may be satisfied but are not invested in the company  culture [6]. Employees waste time in the office and their underperformance becomes a persistent problem, despite the presence of the management. In contrast, studies have shown that remote workers demonstrated higher productivity, satisfaction and engagement rates than their office-bound colleagues [7][8][9]. A 2020 survey conducted by Buffer shows that of the remote workers who were freed from the constraints of office life, 89% reported higher levels of satisfaction and an increase in productivity [10].

Along with this, it is observed that the direct cost associated with maintaining office workspace has been increasing each year. A CBRE study on the corporate workspace costs show that a typical company in the US spends $12,000 on average per employee per year [11]. These costs continue to increase at a rate of 2.5% per annum [12] and the costs can account for up to 3% of the total operating expense [13]. By adopting work-from-home strategies, businesses will be able to significantly reduce their operating expenses due to reduced office space and need for office resources.

Another significant drawback of traditional office jobs is long commute hours. According to the US Census Bureau, an average employee spends nearly 5 hours a week, and over 200 hours per year (nearly 9 days) commuting [14]. The long travel time causes stress, which adversely impacts the productivity of employees. Switching to a work-from-home strategy would allow employees to save the time spent commuting. The remote working strategy also plays a huge role towards sustainability as carbon emissions and energy usage are dramatically reduced. Additionally, transportation infrastructure would be less congested and worn-down.

While the work-from-home strategy is efficient and profitable to businesses, certain challenges remain. One of the biggest challenge of working from home is cultivating professional relationships. Virtual connection is not the same as human connection. Employees may feel a sense of isolation within a team, where a sense of community may be absent. Another big challenge is ensuring employees maintain good time-management skills. With the added distraction of being at home, employees may easily develop a backlog of work.

Who can effectively adopt Work-from-home strategy?

Historically, the top three sectors that have employed the most remote workers are Information technology (29.2%), Marketing (24.5%) and Business Administration and Management (4.7%) [15]. Moving forward, post Covid-19, it is expected that companies within these sectors will expand their work-from-home capacity.

According to a recent study, the global economy will experience a negative shock due to the economic lockdown, causing it to spiral into a recessionary phase [16]. During this time, corporations will look to cut their expenses while trying to get back on track. Implementing work-from-home policies will help companies to reduce their operating expenses. Companies in certain industries would highly benefit from this transition. The industries that will benefit from this transition include: Education & Training, Consultancy (business, legal, healthcare), Data Analytics, and Shopping. Most of the work within these industries can be accomplished remotely, and with the already implemented guidelines and technology, employees and employers can continue working remotely with ease.

Conclusion

COVID-19 has introduced popularity to the concept of remote work which has proven benefits and challenges. Moving forward, companies must weigh these factors to potentially transition to a work-from-home standard. This pandemic may change the conventional workplace structure and lead to a new era in the corporate world.

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