The pandemic has changed the way people work and move around, with governments around the world imposing restrictions and safety protocols in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. The WFH meaning has changed from a mere job “perk” to the only feasible way to work for most companies. Even larger companies have allowed most of their employees to work from home permanently. Only 26% of US workers were working in the office by April 2020, with more than 50% already working from home since then. These WFH employees have also expressed that they would rather work from home permanently even after the pandemic is over.
The shift to WFH arrangements have pushed employees to rethink their approach to work and employers their approach to business operations. The pressure is greater on employers, however, as they try to find the best way to build and work with teams that now work remotely with limited face-to-face interactions. The immediate benefits are undeniable, though, as employees get more time to focus on other aspects of their lives besides work and employers get significant savings on office rental, utilities, and other overhead costs. Smaller businesses have also shown that it can be done.
Of course, WFH arrangements also come with their own downsides. WFH is not for everyone, and some organizations like banks and financial institutions may find it impossible to allow employees to work away from the office. There are also some employees who have experienced increased stress due to the blurred lines between work and home life, not to mention the added distractions at home. Still, the pandemic has shown that businesses can thrive despite more people working remotely.
The effect of the WFH culture will vary in different countries. Developing countries may find it a challenge to adopt due to internet connection issues and the lack of resources for some employees to create a dedicated home office. Still, the benefits of WFH overshadow its disadvantages. Business Talent Group co-founder and co-CEO Jody Miller believes that WFH could create a “much more real global talent marketplace.” Geographical location is no longer a concern because employees can work in the comfort of their own home office, a café, or co-working space. “Now you really are able to imagine hiring someone who is not going to be on site very often,” Miller adds.
A year into the pandemic, and WFH has shown that it can be a feasible working arrangement for most companies, with some showing unexpected benefits like increased productivity and a willingness to work extra hours. Below are the reasons why WFH might be the future of working.
- WFH employees are more productive.
Technology has helped in making remote work easier and helping teams work together collaboratively. In a studycomparing the first six months of working from home during the start of the pandemic lockdowns in 2020 to the same period in 2019, data shows that employees were as productive, if not more so, during the period when they were required to work from home. Another report shows that there was a 47% increase in productivity since March of 2020. This productivity boost is predicted to increase in the years to some as technology evolves and employees get used to the WFH arrangement.
- Employers can leverage independent talent.
Because employees are working from home, employers can now easily hire independent, freelance talent. The hybrid team has been the de facto team for a number of organizations since last year, making geography less of an issue when it comes to acquiring talent and having employees and independent contractors or consultants work seamlessly. This opens up businesses to a more diverse talent pool, regardless of location, and provides more opportunities for jobseekers. In 2020 alone, there has been a 67% increase in business executives seeking independent talent.
- WFH addresses relocation issues.
WFH will help redistribute job opportunities to a larger and more geographically diverse pool of jobseekers. Employees need not relocate for a job, and those that did relocate before can move back to the suburbs or their original homes. For employers, this means they can find lower-cost offices in smaller cities or move to a remote setup altogether, eliminating the need for a dedicated office. This scenario seems likely, as companies discover the benefits of WFH and more employees choose to work from home.
It has taken a pandemic to prove to companies that WFH arrangements are possible and can be done effectively. It comes with its own disadvantages, but investing in the right tools and processes will help make the transition smoother and minimize disruption to operations. Depending on the nature of business, WFH will entail several changes and the reinvention of policies and best practices for most companies. Ultimately, only the businesses themselves can tell if the pros outweigh the cons, but the future is looking bright for WFH, at least for now.