Another 1.5 million Americans filed for unemployment last week. Although the figure might sound staggering, it pales in comparison to the 6.9 million unemployment claims made in the last week of March, during the peak of the economic fallout due to the pandemic. A total of 44 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the pandemic hit the U.S. shores — many won’t get their jobs back for years and for those who do, their workplace might never be the same.
In fact, the workplace might be quite familiar: your very own home.
The pandemic is forcing businesses to rethink their office space and culture, as well as the way they approach flexible hours and working from home.
Prior to the pandemic, few managers trusted their employees to be productive away from the office. Only 4% of the US workforce was working from home before the coronavirus crisis unfolded — and even then, just half of the time.
Fast forward to April and 34% of Americans who previously commuted to their office job were working from home, according to an MIT analysis. This is the exact percentage of jobs eligible for working from home out of all the jobs on the market in the US, which was identified by a paper published by researchers at the University of Chicago.
Even as the coronavirus threat starts to recede, there will be tremendous pressure to continue working from home. According to an IBM survey, 54% of polled workers say they would prefer to continue working remotely full time and 75% said they would like to continue to work from home in at least a partial capacity.
For businesses, having employees working from home would free up resources, such as expenses on office leasing which often adds a lot to the bottom line.
Employee satisfaction is also expected to improve tremendously. Without having to commute for two hours every day, people have more free time that they can dedicate to family, personal growth, and leisure activities. All of this also translates into more indirect disposable income, which can be easily computed with a value of time calculator.
There are drawbacks, of course. According to a PWC survey of over 330 US finance leaders, one in five CFOs said they are very worried about cybersecurity risks. Half of the businesses also expect an important dip in productivity as a result of remote working.
Indeed, productivity might be the tipping factor that will determine whether or not employees will be allowed to continue working remotely. According to the ADP Research Institute, which conducted surveys of employees during the first eight weeks of the pandemic, “working hours, the frequency of communication with others and the ability to complete tasks declined quickly and did not bounce back.”
However, the ADP survey was conducted during the height of the pandemic when stress levels were high due to struggles with childcare, technical issues, and, none the least, fear of the virus.
For instance, CFOs polled by the PWC survey mentioned earlier eased their concerns over both productivity and cybersecurity after they ironed out clear guidelines and remote work frameworks.
Obviously, not everyone wants to work from home, even though they might have been forced to perform their tasks remotely due to the virus. But, if current polls are to be believed, most people want this opportunity, and businesses might have no choice but to submit.