Economic impacts of the work from home trend

By August 5, 2020 Blog Posts

The Covid-19 outbreak has given humanity reason to pause and reflect.  As the economy stumbles, entrepreneurs and job seekers alike are exploring the potential advantages of alternative work arrangements.  Chief among those alternatives is a growing trend of workers telecommuting from home offices.

 

To many business owners it is now obvious that remote work presents a good opportunity, especially for firms within the tech sector.  Many workers also like the arrangement, and are eager for Work From Home (WFH) options to become permanent.

 

The future is both local and global

“The new electronic independence re-creates the world in the image of a global village.”

– Marshall McLuhan

 

When it comes to the tools and workflows of a typical workday, people are more independent than ever.  Technological advances allow professionals to be productive on their own, while entrepreneurs take advantage of online services for human resource management.

 

More businesses are reaching out to professionals around the world.  Even bootstrapping startups conduct business with a wide distribution of stakeholders.  Political boundaries are becoming less important, as workers and their employers connect across borders and entire oceans.  By their very nature, WFH initiatives encourage workplace inclusion.

 

Remote work could potentially become the single biggest factor among current trends in economic globalization.  Employers within developed countries are increasingly interested in lowering costs by hiring gig workers who can telecommute from their homes within developing countries.  Even closer to corporate home, a new harmony resonates between cost-cutting enterprises and local workers hoping to manage their lives more efficiently.  For professionals who can be productive online, physical distance is becoming less relevant.

The new suburbanization?

 Professionals are once again migrating toward the suburbs.  This is affecting office space inside central business districts, with an increasing number of companies planning to downsize their square footage footprint.  The downtown office might not be dead yet, but it is certainly suffering from body blows—and even long-term leases might not benefit landlords much if this current recession forces tenants into insolvency.

 

For those who do embrace telecommuting, there are cultural barriers to overcome.  Few professionals have ever worked from home, and their understanding of it doesn’t extend much farther than dreams of spending each day in pyjamas.

 

Remote work—the cyber nuts & bolts

 

Transitioning toward a remote job can be a challenge.  Most business managers and most workers are unaccustomed to engaging colleagues only through text, email, telephone or videoconferencing.

 

One question that remote management “noobs” often have is how to maximize the productivity of employees working from home.  Prescient employers might provide remote working equipment, or they might encourage a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) work culture enabled through technology stipends.  Managers might implement online tracking systems or resolve to touch base with their reports multiple times per day.  For each of these options, both worker and manager count on secure and reliable technology to support a productive schedule.

 

Technology is important, but it is no panacea.  Soft skills remain a vital element of effective business management and worker collaboration.  Sometimes remote doesn’t fit; employers must have a backup plan for such occasions, because there will always be a few professionals who can’t or won’t work anywhere but a formalized office setting.

The comfort of home—an appropriate professional setting?

 

Some people dislike the idea of having no place of employment outside the home.  They want to keep their work life and their personal life separate.  There is also some concern among traditional workers that telecommuting keeps them out of sight and out of mind.  While uncommon, it is possible that employers will consider remote workers as outsourced contractors who are easily replaced.  Some WFH employees respond to such potential job insecurity with communicative overcompensation.

 

Among telecommuters, feelings of disconnection and isolation are common.  Almost half of surveyed remote workers reported that their mental health is a big concern.

 

Advantages of working from can be summed up as:

 

  • Little to no commute

  • Flexible hours

  • Reduced expenses

  • Relaxed dress code

  • Improved work/life balance (for some)

  • Easier pace

  • Opportunity to keep computer skills current

  • Distance from toxic coworkers

 

Remote work’s disadvantages include:

 

  • Being (or feeling) out of the loop

  • Adverse work/life balance (for some)

  • Loneliness

  • Distractions

  • Communicating at odd hours with colleagues across the globe

  • Extra meetings

  • Increased micromanagement

  • Connectivity issues

  • Cybersecurity concerns

 

Businesses enjoy more flexibility with gig workers, as well as increased reliability.  Telecommuters produce goods with 40% fewer defects, are up to 40% more productive, take fewer sick days, and impact employee turnover at a 12% lower rate.  Those offered a WFH option are up to 74% more likely to remain loyal to their employer.

HR departments will never be the same.  From recruitment and onboarding to communicating with remote workers and providing support, remote workers bring challenges of organizational transformation which appear to be well worth the effort.

Conclusion

The future of commute-free careers has arrived.  As of 2020, the jobs best suited for remote work include computers & IT, software development, medical & health, accounting & finance, customer service, sales and project management.

 

Traditional office-based jobs will remain plentiful during times of economic prosperity.  Expect a hybrid of career options for future generations.  After the commotion of Covid-19 has passed, the economy will recover and will tend toward an optimized balance of remote and in-office employment.

 

Remote work presents a special opportunity for rural workers and women.  As emerging economies and remote regions become more connected, professionals there will also experience standard of living improvements by telecommuting in to companies halfway around the world.  Wages and salaries will become more equitable as humanity takes strides of measurable cyber progress.

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