The Future Is Home: 10 Reasons WFH Will Survive after COVID-19
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Working from home has been one of the most controversial shifts during COVID-19. The practice first began to deter workplace transmissions, which proved to be successful from a health and safety perspective. However, unexpected benefits prompted discussions about its potential longevity, which is bolstered by the fact that one in five people plan to continue using home offices after pandemic restrictions ease.
The term ‘work from home’ (WFH) means using a home space instead of a traditional office. This is most viable for white-collar workers who can complete tasks using a laptop or phone. Once the practice is permanently adopted, working from home becomes known as ‘remote work.’
The popularity of WFH is more than just convenience. Listed below are ten reasons companies will continue using the strategy in the future.
10. Environmental Impact
One under appreciated aspect of WFH is the environmental impact. With growing coverage about our impact on the planet, companies are increasingly making informed choices about the environment. Some opt to transition towards carbon neutrality (offsetting emissions), and others even become carbon negative (removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere). WFH avoids the commute to offices, which seemingly means reduced greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. Research has also found that telecommuters use less paper – a decision that means slower deforestation rates.
While the environmental impact probably won’t be the number one reason the practice remains, it’ll certainly be a bonus for our planet.
9. Bigger Talent Pool
Before the pandemic, only five per cent of full-time employees based in an office worked from home. This number is now likely to plateau at approximately 20 or 30 per cent over the next few years.
Without a locational limit, HR is offered an exponentially large talent pool. Employees can work from a non-urban area, which reduces strain on already overloaded cities. Working from another state or even internationally is likewise possible. A shift towards WFH also means alternate lifestyles can be accommodated. Carers who need flexible working conditions, or those with disabilities unable to commute, are increasingly available for work. The inclusivity of WFH is another reason many employees are eager to maintain the system.
8. Save Money
Who doesn’t love saving money? Yet, anyone with a careful eye on their bank account knows office spaces are expensive for both businesses and employees.
From a business perspective, the cost can be astronomical. Rent, bills and equipment maintenance quickly accumulate. In Sydney, commercial leases in the CBD can be as high as $992 per square metre per annum – without factoring in other expenditures.
Although employee expenses seem comparatively low, commuting and purchasing lunch can seriously impact smaller budgets. Travel fees can range from $2,000 to $5,000 per year, presumably including fuel and parking costs. Even the cost of buying lunch can amount to almost $900 per year.
With remote-first companies proving that a commercial lease isn’t a necessity, there’s an opportunity for business owners and workers to continue saving.
7. Save Time
A popular WFH benefit has been the ability to save time. Employees no longer need to commute long distances or wait moodily in traffic. In fact, many employees instead use saved time to continue working on projects. However, there are other tangible benefits for businesses.
While commuting saves time for employees, WFH also means companies can end ‘helicopter surveillance.’ The term is used to describe supervisors physically observing an office. This can be used to assess productivity or potential problems in the workplace; however, the human eye is undoubtedly flawed. Many businesses have found using surveillance software (legal options, of course) have allowed systematic overviews of activity and productivity levels.
Although surveillance sounds intimidating, the software can improve planning. Businesses can assess when employees are most productive and move meetings that may interfere with workflow. There is some criticism that software may be used as an individual performance tool, but policies will inevitably adapt to the new system (we hope).
6. Improved Co-worker and Manager Relationships
This benefit is a little offensive, but some sources state that relationships with co-workers and with managers have improved by using home offices. A decrease in office politics was cited as one reason, and fewer distractions were cited as another (we’re looking at you Chatty Cathy and Talkative Terry).
5. Higher Retention
One of the most time-consuming tasks for HR is hiring and training new employees. Fortunately, 72 per cent of employers have admitted WFH has meant higher retention. These statistics could stem from a desire for job security during the pandemic, but an appreciation for WFH is also likely. With many businesses offering long-term flexibility after the pandemic, employees have yet another reason to remain satisfied and settled.
Naturally, flexibility is a notable benefit of WFH. Many employees have appreciated spending their lunch break completing chores, pursuing hobbies, or enjoying time with family and friends.
For those without workplace surveillance software – entrusted to complete tasks independently – there are further options. Finishing projects in a timely fashion means the work week potentially reduces, leaving more time for personal pursuits.
3. Physical Health
There has been conflicting information about physical health during lockdowns, but the consensus is that WFH leaves more time for self-care. Saving time on a lengthy commute can allow extra sleep in the morning, and the ability to eat a healthy breakfast, exercise, and recuperate after illness. Avoiding the commute can have more direct health benefits, too. Travelling to work can result in higher cholesterol and increased blood sugar levels due to stress. As more people become conscious of their physical health, employees and their businesses should take note of an unexpected way to improve wellness.
2. Mental Health
Similarly to physical health, the mental state of employees during WFH has been a contentious subject. There has been a marked upsurge in depression during the pandemic, although this is likely related to lockdowns and pandemic-related anxieties. In fact, avoiding the commute to work (a recurring theme in this article) can decrease the risk of depression. Indeed, many employees have enjoyed WFH, preferring that the practice becomes a mainstay even after the end of lockdown.
A surge in productivity is the biggest reason companies are transitioning towards WFH. In the United States, home offices have boosted efficiency by five per cent, and this is predicted to continue growing. Such change is partly due to technological advancements that have accompanied the transition to WFH, facilitating more effective communication and task output. However, employee satisfaction could also be a contributor. Since productivity is one of the largest corporate drives, WFH will likely expand further.
In conclusion, there is a myriad of reasons that WFH will continue after the pandemic. Environmental impact, economy and flexibility are promising. However, direct results for HR are also evident: a bigger talent pool, professional relationships, retention, employee health, and productivity are all enhanced through WFH. Although the practice is still developing, COVID-19 has fast-tracked a transition that may have large-scale benefits for businesses and their employees. Not everyone will experience the advantages of this new style of working. Each person has their unique experiences, and some may struggle with hybrid or remote-first workplaces, but there is certainly value in implementing WFH in the workplace.