In February 2020, only a small number of people would have able to tell you what the WFH meaning was, six months later and after millions of people found that Working From Home was the “new normal” the acronym has become synonymous with the global pandemic and it’s continuing impact on the workforce. But, how are people getting on with working from home?
The Myth of Everyone Working from Home
So, according to a report conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas only 24% of employed workers worked at home for the whole of August 2020 with 18% on top of that working some days – so at most 42% were working from home at some point in August. This is still a huge number compared to what was roughly 15% prior to Covid-19.
If you take into account the fact that a large percentage of workers are unable to work remotely due to the type of job they perform such as retail, healthcare or transport then this figure represents a huge increase.
In America, it is also reported that only 65% have access to fast enough internet capacity to enable them to take part in video calls. This leaves 35% with poor internet (or indeed no internet at all).
What it appears we are creating is an underclass of people who are unable, whether by job role, or by location, to be able to work from home. In current circumstances that is an underclass of people who are, by definition, putting themselves at greater risk of catching Covid-19 in the first place. As well as having to place themselves in more risk at work, they have to travel there which brings it’s own issues and risks. As we have also seen when the pandemic “hits” and places go into lock down, those that are more at risk of losing jobs or being furloughed are those who have manual jobs or work in close proximity to others. Whereas the office workers are safer as they work from home.
An Internet Revolution
As people grow more accustomed to working from home, what is the future? Prior to the pandemic of Covid-19 a lot of companies continued as they had always done. Commuting into the office in the centre of town sometimes taking two hours each way was the norm as was working nine to five (and sometimes much later) – working from home was seen as a perk, or worse, as code for spending the afternoon on the golf course.
As the power of the internet and to a lesser extent the mobile phone grew however, the ability to be realistically “working from home” grew as did the ability to be contacted anywhere (even if you really were on the golf course).
In addition, the growth of fast internet connections into peoples homes alongside the development of software solutions for communicating within companies has allowed people to begin to have the ability to work remotely.
Percentages have been on the rise since it was possible to work from home but it has increased by 140% since 2005 (and that was before the pandemic).
The attractions to companies for remote working are many, with employees working from home, the need for large, expensive offices in high rent city centers disappears. This alongside the fact that companies that allow remote working has 25% less employee turnover makes it an easy decision to make. Whereas previously employees may not have been totally trusted to put in the hours the pandemic has shown that, when it was necessary to do so, that the workforce stepped up to the plate and performed. So, now the cat is out of the bag what is the future for WFH?
The Future Is WFH?
Now that a huge number of employees have been exposed to working from home over the last six months or so and mostly enjoying it what does the future hold?
Will, after this pandemic is over, companies decide that it’s best to have employees back at their desks so they can keep a closer eye on them or do they now trust their employees? Or indeed, does the employee want to go back to sitting in traffic, or on the tube, for hours on end just to sit in an office?
So recent studies have shown that over half of people would move to a different company if it gave them more flexibility in working hours and working from home options. Three quarters of people would choose to work remotely given the choice and a quarter of people who work remotely at least once a month are more likely to be happy, and more productive. In fact over 80% of employees think that they do not now need the office in order to be productive. So there would appear to be a huge swing towards WFH options………………..
There is, however a downside. As people adjust themselves to working remotely for way longer than first anticipated (I know that I was informed it would be for a month or two – which is now looking more like a year). They are beginning to re-evaluate what they want from an employer and what they want long term. Employees have had a long time at home, some with little interaction with other employees, even if it was just at the coffee machine.
With reduced interaction (despite the enforced Zoom quizzes) employees are more likely to feel neglected and see a company which doesn’t really value them as individuals. They are looking increasingly likely to consider other options given their treatment throughout the pandemic. That combined with the downturn in business and the future uncertainty more and more people are planning their own future which doesn’t necessarily involve their current employer. Nearly 60% of people in a recent survey said they were learning a new skill with nearly half of millenials stating an interest in starting their own business as a direct result of reduced job security.
Companies may have problems in future managing to retain employees once the pandemic eventually subsides and work returns to normal once again. The jobs may remain the same but the landscape has changed completely and it will be up to companies to attract new talent (and retain personnel they have) by offering the most attractive benefits, which will undoubtedly include WFH options.
Thanks for reading, do you agree with my article? Do you see the same issues with your work currently and do you see the companies in future which offer work from home options being the most attractive to new employees? Would you move for a more flexible approach to working? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you and continue this discussion.
If you’re interested in reading about getting properly set up for working from home, you may be interested in this article here. If you are interested in looking for Work From Home jobs or making some extra money then you may be interested in this article.