In a world full of uncertainty, we try to cling to what is familiar to maintain some semblance of normalcy and routine. While work can be a pillar of stability to many people, the past year of lockdowns, social distancing, and pandemic precautions have caused workplace atmospheres and expectations to change drastically in a short amount of time. Out of all of the adjustments though, one has taken center stage in paving the way for workplace environments in the future: working from home.
Before the rise of the COVID 19 pandemic, coming across full time “work-from-homers” was almost an anomaly. According to NBC News, only “12% of the U.S. workforce worked from home for at least one full day per month” pre-pandemic. However, the number has jumped to 32 million, or one-fifth of the workforce now works from home, as of October.
Face to face interaction is considered a critical aspect of most jobs. While there are plenty of occupations that wouldn’t exist without being present at the workplace, the pandemic has required society to do a deep dive on what careers can survive by working remotely, revealing more options and positive benefits for working at home than anyone expected.
Employees get to experience the positive benefits that come with working in a familiar and comfortable environment. The luxury of being able to go to work from the comfort of your home has cut down on the stress of commutes, sleep depravity, and the drama that can come with being in a workplace, and it has been proven that working from home has caused work-related stress levels to decrease, which allows for more passion to be put into the actual work itself.
Many occupations were perceived to be obligatorily hands-on, however we have learned that that’s not necessarily the case. Occupations such as psychologists, instructors, or professors, for instance, may work the most effectively when they are in person with their clients or students, however it is still possible for them to work effectively from home.
By learning what occupations can survive virtually, it allows employers to prepare for a future where accommodations could be more freely given to workers who can’t work in person all the time, and job requirements could be more lenient on time in person. Employees may not have to worry about being replaced or using excessive sick/vacation time if extenuating circumstances require them to work from home. This could cause an influx in job opportunities for citizens that may want to work to work in person but are unable to. All of this could be done while providing society the stability of having a backup plan in case of another scenario of having to work remotely again. A backup plan that we didn’t have before the pandemic.
Despite all of the benefits that come from being at home, there are also a substantial amount of obstacles that stand in the way of having remote working be an ideal environment.
Creating an office, with just the basic necessities being furniture and appliances could easily cost up to, if not more than, $1,000, not including special models of computers to run specific software or internet services just to be able to do your job. Let alone someone that doesn’t have a stable internet connection, a computer, or the equipment required for their job. Having to come up with a substantial amount of money like that within a matter of days just to be able to do your job is completely unreasonable.
Additionally, time management and distractions became a point of contention for many employees who had to work from home. Home is associated with comfort, and where you relax after working. But when you don’t leave the place of comfort to go to work, then it becomes easy to get distracted by all of those things that you either get to escape at work, or the things that make home fun and relaxing. The kids don’t go to school anymore, your dog isn’t used to you being home, or you have five unfinished projects staring at you, begging to be completed, all while you’re supposed to be focusing on work.
A Silver Lining
Although these negative effects are very critical to acknowledge, there is a silver lining to working remotely. Most of these side effects could have been offset if the pandemic and lockdown hadn’t set in so instantaneously. There was no time to save money for an office or equipment, or to prepare for the kids to be homeschooled while you would be home working.
News sources are examining the possibility of employers and the government contributing to the costs of having employees work from home, giving home workers some hope for compensation. Once society has had the chance to adjust to the requirements of working from home, the benefits will make themselves known on an everyday basis, whether that be through finding more enjoyment in your work, being less stressed, saving money from commuting, or even just learning more about how to navigate the virtual world.
Despite the great struggles of living through the pandemic, society as a whole will be more disciplined and flexible. Because we took the time in quarantine to explore and experiment with working from home and it’s benefits, it should be more common than ever before. Hopefully when/if it becomes safe to physically go back to work, employers will implement some of the lessons learned into their employees’ new work environment. Whether it be creating hybrid work weeks or having entire jobs online, the stress deduction alone should be enough to implement a new system that focuses on keeping its employees happy.
Of course there will be both sides: those happy working from home, and those who are longing to get back to their clients, workplace, and career. There will be some who want to do both. Exposing so many employees to working at home broke down society’s idea of a “normal” work life, but as frequently seen throughout history, what was once uncertain and anything but, will soon become the new “normal.”