While first and foremost a health crisis, the global COVID-19 pandemic also managed to disrupt the workplace, ushering in an era of increased work-from-home business models. It’s a change that has continued even as concerns about the pandemic have faded.
The idea of giving employees the opportunity to work from home existed before the pandemic, but its use became more widespread as businesses heeded expert medical advice and kept people from an enclosed office environment where the virus can more easily spread.
With the worst of the pandemic far behind, some employers are insisting that employees return to the office. Many others, however, have weighed the pros and cons of working from home and decided it’s good for business. Those preparing to become future human resource leaders by earning a master’s degree in HR management know that flexible office hours and the ability to work from home have become central to modern business structures.
Work-From-Home Trends Before and After COVID
Before 2020, a number of employers and job positions had already shifted to a work-from-home model. Some of these positions include software development, data entry, writing, editing, and graphic design. Some customer service representatives also worked from home.
The pandemic accelerated this trend. Every industry increased the amount of remote work during the pandemic, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In education services alone, 2.7 million organizations shifted workers to a work-from-home model.
Even as the pandemic eased its grip on the country, workers wanted to retain the opportunity to work from home. Forbes wrote that “there’s no going back” as employees enjoy not having to commute and, in some cases, the chance to relocate outside of expensive cities. Even some managers have been reluctant to return to the large amounts of business travel now that they’ve seen how videoconferencing can keep them in touch with clients, according to Forbes.
The recent American Opportunity Survey from McKinsey & Co. indicates that flexible working arrangements are now a permanent feature of the modern workplace. The study found that 58 percent of Americans now work from home at least one day per week.
The Benefits of Working From Home
Giving employees the chance to work from home offers benefits both to workers and their employers. Business leaders have quickly moved to make flexible work hours one of the biggest trends in business, according to Coworking Insights (CI). Related trends include a focus on improving company culture, better work-life balance, and the use of more asynchronous communication.
Benefits for Employees
In addition to losing the commute and having the ability to move to a less expensive area, working from home also gives employees more time to spend with family and the ability to more easily schedule personal appointments (such as a doctor’s visit or parent-teacher conference) or provide care for aging parents.
Many employees also become more productive when they work from home. No longer slowed down by office distractions, an employee can sit at their own kitchen table or in a home office and focus for long periods of time on work. They also enjoy saving money on gas, clothes and lunches at expensive restaurants near the office.
Many businesses now offer employees flexible work time that includes full-time and part-time work-from-home options. Providing these options gives employees the chance to lead more balanced and healthier lives, according to CI. They also note that employers concerned about productivity can use digital tools to track time or set Key Performance Indicators for employees to meet.
Benefits for Employers
The increased productivity of employees who work from home offers one of the biggest advantages to employers. Setting goals that employees must reach on a weekly or monthly basis can keep workers accountable.
Employers also get the benefit of reduced overhead costs when people work from home, saving them money on rent, utilities, and other office-related expenses. They also have access to a larger talent pool, as job candidates see flexible working hours as a key benefit. Even more importantly, offering remote work can help businesses with employee retention and allow them a better chance to keep their most talented employees.
Working from home also has the potential to lower traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions, something that benefits everyone.
The Potential Negatives of Working From Home
For both employers and employers, a work-from-home model has some cons. Avoiding them requires paying attention to the details involving each situation as well as the employee involved.
Cons for Employees
For some employees, one of the main issues is social isolation. They may find they miss the social interactions they used to enjoy with colleagues at the office. The worst-case scenario is the chance the employee will begin suffering from the symptoms of depression. For some employees, working from home makes it harder to build and maintain a clear boundary between work and personal life. It may also make it harder for them to “switch off” from work. And in some cases, remote jobs can involve more distractions than the employee experienced at the office.
Cons for Employers
In addition to managing employees who may struggle to stay motivated and productive without daily, in-person supervision, businesses must also depend more on technology. This requires backup plans and, in many cases, an acknowledgment that a random power or internet outage could delay the work for a project. It also requires using software to manage security risks and keep company information safe.
Managers must also develop the skills needed to oversee remote teams, including the use of asynchronous communication channels and resolving issues without the ability to have frequent, in-person collaboration. Business leaders also must work on methods to maintain a strong business culture even with employees working remotely.
Touro University Worldwide Human Resources Degrees
Students in Touro University Worldwide’s MS in Human Resources Management program, as well as those enrolled in online business degree programs, learn how to manage flexible work policies as part of contemporary business structures.
TUW offers graduate students the chance to focus on one of three concentrations: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Employee Engagement and Total Rewards; and Training and Development. No matter which they choose, students will enroll in a 100% online degree program that offers six start times throughout the year. The program, which students can complete in a year, also does not require student residency or taking the GRE.
Most importantly, students learn from experienced professionals who teach the latest theories and practical applications of those theories in real-world environments. That includes effective ways to incorporate work-from-home opportunities that benefit both employees and employers.