Should Employers Allow Employees to Work From Home After the Pandemic Ends?

Our daily lives have changed dramatically since the pandemic started. Whether you have been working exclusively at home or go into the office on an alternating schedule, we’ve now been given the luxury of working from home. While the conditions of working from home may not be ideal, kids being home and the looming threat of illness, the pandemic has shown that it is possible to work from home and still be productive. Before, employers were reluctant to allow employees to work from home, but now almost two-thirds of the American workforce is telecommuting. Will this continue once the pandemic ends? 

The Great American Experiment

Americans are unknowingly participating in an experiment to truly see if working remotely either full-time or part-time can be successful. From an employer standpoint, there seems to be no point in spending thousands of dollars on a luxury office building in an expensive city when people are going to be working from home most of the time. Employers can cut costs by downscaling their offices, which is critically important with an impending recession. Working in the office during this time can hold employers liable for employee’s health under OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), which can cause inconvenient stress so many see it as just easier to have employees telecommute. 

Employees have been enjoying the lack of office annoyances. No more meetings with content that could have been sent in an email. No more conferences that could have been sent as a PowerPoint and flipped through at home. What has been seen as necessary has become unnecessary.

An aspect workers found annoying was the commute to the office. Even those who want to go back to the office are dreading it. Sitting in traffic for hours or squeezing into a crowded train car was draining, especially after a long day at the office. Now, employees either never sit in rush hour traffic or only endure it a couple times a week. People are saving time and money by working from home, it’s a win-win situation.

But how do employees feel about continuing to work from home? The response seems to be mixed, as 59% of employees would like to continue working remotely as much as possible while 41% would rather return to the office. Why isn’t there a consensus that working from home is obviously better? Because for some people it’s not. 

The Downsides to Working From Home

Most people have never worked from home, so when the switch happened there were a lot of bumps in the road. Technology wasn’t able to accommodate home offices, communication went out the window, kids were screaming during meetings: working from home wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Now, most of the technical kinks have been smoothed out but there are still challenges to telecommuting. People simply get lonely. If managers are not making an effort to form camaraderie with their team, the community of your office dies. Social distancing mandates and working from home is a combination that can make even the most introverted person feel isolated. 

If your job is based on collaboration, working from home can cause delays in communication and make it frustrating to create something. When in the office, it was easy to pop by someone’s desk to ask for their opinion but now you have to set up a Zoom meeting which can be a hassle. Sharing your screen with someone is not the same as hands on interaction. For some jobs, telecommuting isn’t practical and provides more challenges than benefits. 

Additionally, there has been a rise in burnout among remote workers. Since we are home all the time, it can be expected that we are on call 24/7 which can lead to 10 hour work days. When we work we are at home; when we are home we are at work. Some people have not been able to successfully navigate work-life balance when telecommuting, and would rather work in the office to maintain a healthy schedule. 

These issues can be fixed through trial-and-error as employers and employees will get used to working from home. There should be clear boundaries drawn to prevent burnout in remote workers and employers should make an effort to foster a community, albeit remote.

So What is the Answer?

 Working from home is a nuisance and going into the office is a nuisance; accept that there is no clear answer to if we should continue to work from home after the pandemic ends. To help you answer this question, conduct surveys amongst your employees to form a solution. Do they prefer working from home or in the office? Do the majority of your employees have kids? Is your school district online for the fall semester? Is it practical to telecommute for your company? How can you relieve stress and burnout if you continue to work remotely? Is having a staggering shift schedule the best solution? It should be noted that it is more logical to have your employees work from home if they have kids who need to be supervised while school is online. This is a pivotal point in history, so consult many experts before coming to a final decision. What position are you leaning towards? Working from home indefinitely or going to the office again?

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