It used to be that working from home was a privilege enjoyed by only a select few. In light of the pandemic, however, the term WFH (work from home) has been a common topic of conversations the world over. The WFH meaning has changed from privilege to business as usual as businesses adjust and find ways to stay afloat in the face of COVID-19. Even if the pandemic was the enabler of the WFH economy, it was bound to happen due to technological advancements, and it’s expected to continue long after the pandemic is over. Not every company will find the WFH arrangement feasible, but it will be part of the working arrangement for many companies, at least for a percentage of their workforce.
The WFH economy will have a large impact beyond the company and its employees. For example, people working from home means less people commuting and less people in establishments like restaurants and convenience stores. The impact is both positive and negative, but one fact rings true: it will change lives, and both employers and employees should be prepared for the change. As employees discover that productivity isn’t sacrificed by working from home, many of them are beginning to demand that they work from home permanently or at least half the time. Even executives and managers have reduced their apprehension to a WFH arrangement, and it’s expected that at least 25% of the workforce will be working remotely multiple days a week by the end of 2021.
Working from home might be the logical next step for some, but it’s not for everyone. The WFH meaning will differ between people and organizations depending on several factors, including the nature of the job and current working arrangements, among others. There’s extra pressure on employers because they need to ensure minimal disruption to business operations while also taking care of the health and well being of their employees and customers. More than a year of facing a pandemic has helped reinforce the benefits of WFH arrangements, however, and they benefit both employers and employees.
- A more agile workforce
Employees that are no longer obligated to work in the office are more willing to work flexible hours, including after working hours and even during weekends. This helps the business address certain business needs and goals, like meeting a deadline with a client in a different time zone or decreasing turnaround times for certain projects.
- Attracting new talent and retaining the talent you already have
Recruiting remotely is a challenge. Offering WFH as an option gives an advantage over those who don’t because it provides employees the opportunity to attend to other duties and eliminates or reduces the commute time. Being allowed to work from home also fosters trust between employer and employee and helps build strong relationships that contribute to staff loyalty.
- Significant cost savings
Working from home means less time or no time in the office at all. This leads to bigger savings on overhead costs and other office-related charges. It also means savings on the part of the employee because they no longer need to worry about the daily commute and lunches and dinners out.
- Less absences due to sickness
Employees who work from home are more energized because they don’t have to face the challenge of the daily commute. Since fatigue is minimized, there’s also less chance of employees being negatively affected by burnout.
- Improved health and well being
Working from home lessens stressors like the daily commute and being late for meetings. It also saves time, allowing employees to engage in activities that promote their health and well being. It also helps employees achieve proper work-life balance because they now have more time to focus on themselves and other personal matters.
- Feelings of isolation
Employees working from home may feel isolated from their co-workers, especially if they live alone. Constant communication should be ensured through regular meetings and check-ins with employees so that these feelings are addressed or avoided.
- More distractions
Working from home removes office distractions but replaces them with home distractions. This can be a concern, especially for those who can’t find or create a dedicated working space at home.
- Information security risks
With laptops being taken home, the information security risks are increased. Servers may need to be accessed remotely several times in a day, so security protocols should be in place to avoid data breach and unauthorized access to business servers. An organization should ensure that its employees have the necessary access to data while also ensuring the security of said data at all times.
- Staff development challenges
With face-to-face interactions replaced by online meetings and videoconferences, it could be a challenge to upskill staff and implement development programs. An organization could counteract this issue by providing resources for or funding online courses and webinars.
- Decreased morale
Employee morale is a vital element to business success, and with employees working from home, maintaining this has been more challenging than ever. WFH may have different effects on different people, and for some, it can do more harm than good. Organizations can boost employee morale by encouraging them to develop a daily working routine and set a dedicated working area in the home. Regular chats and check-ins and specific activities that help improve mental health also show employees that the organization and their co-workers are there with them despite the distance.
Working from home is by no means a new trend, but the pandemic has shown organizations and workers that it can be a feasible—and effective—way to work. Of course, it comes with its own disadvantages; done right, however, it can be an effective alternative to requiring employees to be in the office to do work that they can do at home. WFH is not for everyone. While it is beneficial in getting insights on the future of working practices, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. For some, a hybrid approach or splitting employee time between working from home and in the office is the best solution. This allows employees to enjoy the advantages of WFH while also being present for important meetings and having the opportunity to enjoy face-to-face interactions with co-workers.