If you are fortunate enough to retain your job during the coronavirus crisis, you are likely working from home.
Telecommuting has emptied workplaces, quieted our roadways, led to a surge in home internet use and made video conferences tools staples of professional life.
We have been forced to accept the new working-from-home reality. There are pros and cons.
What Workers Want
In early spring, as workers across the U.S. were told to work from home as part of social distancing, opinions at the time seemed to be on the side of telecommuting as a long-term approach.
Gallup reported that 62% of workers were remote between March 30 and April 2, and 59% of workers surveyed wanted to do their jobs remotely as much as possible, with 41% favoring a return to offices or other workplaces.
But will these attitudes continue?
A Pulse of the American Worker Survey of 2,050 full-time employed adults in the late April/early May timeframe found isolation, distractions and a lack of focus were the biggest challenges to working remotely. A blurred line between work and personal life and adjusting to new dynamics were also common concerns.
A Look at the Benefits
So here’s what’s good about working remotely.
As early as 2014, a Stanford study found that remote workers were actually 13% more efficient than their in-office peers. And it’s especially good news for introverts, who thrive on executing tasks on their computers but dread the in-person interaction of the office.
For some – though by no means all – it might be easier to balance work and personal life. Think of getting errands done in hours that otherwise would be spent sitting in freeway traffic or on public transportation to or from work. Or using extra time to get a workout in.
There might be some environmental and economical savings. Driving contributes to air pollution and hurts consumers’ pocketbooks. Working from home might eliminate the need to drive to children’s day care, too, creating both environmental and economic savings. Though of course, weekend trips might be more likely when you’ve spent the workweek at home, and there’s still driving or public transit for errands.
The Negative Side
For all of its benefits, the negatives to telecommuting are myriad, especially over the long term.
Workplace culture has a lot to do with how strong – or weak – a company or organization is. With more than half of workers reporting feeling less connected to their company – and this is with less than two months of social distancing in many cases – the challenge for organizations is formidable.
And the efficiency gains of telecommuting may not last forever, or may be limited to short periods, as workers lose their connection with their bosses and colleagues.
The question of working from home or not doesn’t apply to many workers. Consider construction, real estate, in-person retail, supply chain, restaurants and food services, groceries, utilities and other sectors that require traditional work environments, even in a digital world.
Have Your Say
What are your thoughts about working from home?
Is it a good approach for the future? Or something to shed as soon as we can return to work safely?
We’d like to hear your thoughts. Comment below or through social media.