Work From Home is Here to Stay
Even before the current crisis, the labor market was slowly shifting towards a work-from-home model. Previous estimates had anywhere from 20 to 30% of employees working from home, at least partially.
The numbers have increased, but the basis for WFH already existed. The current work situation is not necessarily a paradigm shift, as much as it is a natural change that was forced into a shorter time-frame.
Whatever the cause, work-from-home is becoming standard, and due to the advantages it has over other models, it is hard to see why people would revert to the previous ones en masse, but there are many reasons why we can confidently say that work-from-home is here to stay.
For-profit organizations, naturally, aim for the widest profit margins possible, but even charitable organizations try to be as fiscally responsible as possible. The work-from-home model has established that it can provide both employers and employees with substantial financial benefits, even when forced upon by outside factors. It still remains to be seen how much practice will increase the benefits over time, while curbing the downsides.
Permanent or part-time work-from-home employees will see an increase in their personal budget in the very first month – less commuting expenses, vehicle maintenance, childcare, or eating out. All of these things directly affect your budget.
When the living expenses of workers decrease and their quality of life improves, employers also see an indirect financial benefit. Studies have shown that many workers are willing to take pay-cuts in order to retain their work-from-positions, and this is, obviously, advantageous for their employers.
Real-estate and office prices are some of the largest expenses for company owners. With even a minor part of the workforce shifting to work-from-home positions, real-estate and office expenses can be considerably cut. Paying for, and maintaining large offices can become barely sustainable in urban centers, when real-estate prices start going up.
As more companies embrace work-from-home positions, the price of real estate goes down, and with the added benefit of being able to move to smaller offices, the profit margins for any company become substantially wider.
Possibly counterintuitively, studies have shown that workers are more productive when working from home. They spend less time traveling and being distracted by things happening in a cramped office, and are more motivated as they see work-from-home as a benefit. If you work-from-home you may surprise yourself by working longer hours, without any need for oversight.
To sum it up, work-from-home enables less office overhead and lower worker salaries, yet increased productivity – all of these factors imply that, where possible, work-from-home will not be a temporary solution for the current state of affairs, but a permanent fixture of employment.
Improved WFH Technology and Policies
Companies are starting to realize that work-from-home may be a viable long-term solution, and starting to reallocate their funds towards internal WFH technology development, and invest in third-party software and hardware developers.
Many companies are solely devoted to producing work-from-home tools and software – Slack, Asana, Trello, Monday, etc. Others, like Zoom, are increasingly focusing on enabling people to work remotely.
As time passes the technology required for sustaining work-from-home positions will only improve, and with more and more companies diverting their funds towards development, it would not be a bold prediction to say that the technology will develop rapidly.
Purchasing or creating the hardware and software that will be needed to remain competitive will require substantial financial investment from companies, but the funds that work-from-home positions save can be used to help cover the new expenses.
A challenge that companies could face is long-term employee motivation. Working from home means that there is less social contact, and that will need to be addressed by a combination of new tech infrastructure and creative policies.
Improved technology that will allow greater engagement will be required, but policies will also need to be improved and adapted to the new situation. HR departments may see their assignments dramatically change – they will play a pivotal role in keeping employees satisfied and establishing preventive measures to help them remain focused.
Work is Becoming Project-Based
Much of the white-collar work being done by large companies does not require employees to constantly be at their assigned positions. The service economy is faltering, while a knowledge-based economy has been becoming dominant for some time.
Many tools exist that allow workers to collaborate, without needing to be in the same physical space at the same time to function. It is easier than ever to give a team a project, set milestones and deadlines, and regularly check the progress. None of this requires the phases of the project to be completed during a 9-to-5 workday – simply set a date for a certain milestone and follow up on how the work is progressing.
Project-based work allows for more flexibility, and can be done from anywhere, with the right tools. If properly organized, people can work in conjunction with one another, while minimizing direct interaction and the need for constant instructions.
The last few decades have proven that greater worker diversity leads to better productivity, increases the quality of services, and helps with innovation and creativity. Work-from-home will expand the labor pool and allow a more diverse set of workers to be hired.
The battle for qualified workers has always been one of the primary hurdles for emerging companies, but if they take the right approach and apply common-sense, well thought-out hiring policies, they may find themselves ahead of the competition.
Permanent or part-time WFH positions will permit workers who would usually be unable, or unwilling to work from a company office to be just as effective as the standard worker. The physical challenge of coming to, and remaining, in an office is becoming a non-factor, allowing a wider range of qualified people to apply for jobs they would normally pass on.
The global labor market is an untapped asset for many organizations whose standard hiring practices were focused on hiring locally, or incentivizing people to move to the locality – to stay competitive they will need to adapt to the emerging situation and utilize any and all resources available to them. Work-from-home becoming a standard model will push them towards diversifying their recruitment pool, and the forward-thinking and adaptable ones will prosper.
Qualified workers are a company’s strongest asset. But simply finding and hiring the best staff suited for the required jobs is not enough. If companies are not able to retain their employees, they will find themselves in a constant struggle for new hires – and new hires require time, guidance and training before they become productive. A company that cannot retain the majority of its current staff is rushing towards fiscal failure.
Many work-from-home employees report much higher job satisfaction than they had in their previous positions. A satisfied employee is less likely to move companies or quit, allowing management to focus on increasing the efficiency of their workers, instead of training new staff.
There are many different reasons why work-from-home factors so heavily in employee satisfaction. The flexible work hours it provides and no commuting are major benefits.
Workers can structure their hours how it suits them – they know when they are most productive, and allowing them to organize their schedule means they do not spend hours on end doing basic tasks that they would otherwise finish in mere minutes. This permits them to spend more time on the more important and complicated tasks, helping them stay motivated.
The lack of commuting is a huge time-saver. The two or more hours that would be spent on going to and from work can be used for hobbies, leisure activities and family time, leaving workers happier and more fulfilled.
People Will Not Want to Give Up WFH
One of the main advantages of humankind is our adaptability to new situations. Usually, an impetus is needed for major changes to occur, but once the change happens we quickly find ways of adjusting to the new setting.
The global pandemic is causing many societal shifts, including a shift in the labor market. Already, we have started altering our work habits and systems to suit current needs, and are starting to find the advantages of the new model.
Once the situation changes again and it becomes possible to revert to the old model, will a motive exist for that to happen? We are already seeing many of the benefits the new system brings, and, over time, the negatives will be lessened and easier to deal with.
Ask yourself – if you are forced into a new situation and after the initial struggle to adapt, find yourself happier, more satisfied and fulfilled, what would be needed for you to wish to go back?
Work-from-home is increasingly becoming the model that allows people more freedom and greater benefits than they previously enjoyed – it is hard to find a reason why people would give that up, now that they know it as a possibility. Work-from-home is here to stay.
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