Why Working From Home Is Beneficial for the Employer and Employee
Working from home has been a growing trend; the outbreak of COVID-19 might make it mainstream.
Off to work? For a growing number of employees, that means rolling out of bed, sauntering over to a kitchen table, and firing up the laptop. Forget about the commute, forget about business attire, forget about office chitchat. This is the emerging face of work in the 21st century.
The benefits of enabling employees to work remotely have been driving a steady increase in its acceptance throughout the U.S. According to FlexJobs, a service connecting telecommuters with employers, more than 4.7 million Americans either worked remotely or telecommuted at least half-time by 2018, which is more than twice the number who had done so just ten years earlier.
However, that now appears to have been just the start. Last fall, an Owl Labs study projected that by 2025, about half the U.S. workforce would be working remotely for at least part of their week. 42 percent of those who currently work remotely expect to increase the amount of remote work they do over the next five years.
Regular, full-time employees working from home or on the road are only part of the story. In an economy where on-demand or contingent workers — freelancers, contractors, consultants, the self-employed, and anyone else whose work is considered part of the gig economy — form the fastest-growing share of the workforce, unconventional workspace arrangements have become routine.
Beyond that, a number of leading companies in different industries have fully embraced the concept of a remote workforce.. Analysts forecast that by the end of this year, 19 percent of the workforce will be made up of contingent workers.
However, that forecast was made before the notion of a global pandemic became a real likelihood. The carefully calculated rise of remote work, which had been projected to follow a predictably smooth curve, spiked with the spreading of the novel virus — threatening millions of people, shutting down schools, transit, and work facilities wherever people could congregate and infect one another. Major cities in China and elsewhere look like ghost towns with empty streets, stores and offices.
Municipal lockdowns and weeks of quarantine, whether self-imposed or by edict, became the standard response for officials in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Healthy people have been directed to remain in their homes to avoid catching or transmitting the virus, and hospitals are struggling to help the infected. Yet, the need for economic productivity continues.
At the same time, however, the building blocks of a global, home-based workforce are already in place: a combination of the growing number of jobs connected to computer networks, the near universal ownership of cell phones and ubiquitous availability of personal computers, all linked together by technologies providing connectivity service.
According to the president of Global Workplace Analytics, Kate Lister, "What these temporary uses tend to do is show companies that, A) it can be done, and B) having people already accustomed to working remotely makes the transition much easier."
Experience has shown that working remotely stands to benefit employers and employees in a number of ways:
- Each remote worker saves their employer an average of $10,000 a year on workspace and related expenses.
- Employers can tap into talent anywhere around the world since their workforce isn't location-dependent. Diversity — which many companies regard as an asset to their workforce — can also grow more easily.
- Better morale among employees with less turnover, lower absenteeism and greater engagement is a likely outcome, even with part-time work from home allowances. Flexible scheduling is a high priority for most employees, and remote work enables it.
- Higher productivity has been repeatedly cited by professionals who work remotely.
- As an economic development tool, it can help attract new residents to struggling rural communities where living costs are low.
- Remote work can make an organization's personnel more inclusive by enabling people with certain disabilities or chronic illness to participate.
From the beginning of human history until the late 19th century, most work was done at home — or at least within walking distance from home. Of course, that was before the age of electronic communications, but the tradition of home-based work is well-established. Today's epidemic of COVID-19 may have the unintended effect of reviving that tradition.
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