Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home has become the new norm for millions of people around the U.S., and the world. In the States, roughly 42% of the population has transitioned from working in an office everyday to working from their homes each day.
In March 2020, some believed that workplace productivity would wane as a result of people working from their homes. Instead, organizations are reporting that productivity largely hasn’t been impacted due to offices shuddering. In fact, the tech conglomerate, Cisco, actually has seen an increase in worker productivity during this time, according to CNBC.
What can be seen as the great experiment in productivity, this period has shown a resilience, willingness and ability to adapt in the face of adversity. Yes, the pandemic has forced the majority of corporations operating large office spaces to move much of their workforce to virtual and remote work. However, after the pandemic passes, some organizations will be left wondering if it is indeed worth bringing some or all of their people back to the office. And in the same vein, when the time does come to return to the workplace, it’s likely that a large subset of employees will expect a more flexible work arrangement where teleworking is a part of the overall equation.
When your organization begins working to determine if permanent remote or teleworking is the more viable, long-term solution, there are a number of considerations to weigh in the decision-making process.
Deciding if work from home is even a fit
For many front-line workers – whether those in laboratories, medical settings, grocery stores or other public servants – working remotely is not an option. However, for organizations working to determine if remote work is a viable option for all of its employees or a select group of them, it’s important to take into account some factors.
- Can our office space accommodate a full return or a partial return? When, and if, employees return to their offices, it’s likely that they will look a bit different upon their return. Before making a decision regarding a return to the office, it’s important to determine whether the existing space is able to be utilized in a way that keeps everyone safe.
- Does the position allow for working from home? While many jobs now allow for professionals to work remotely, others require individuals to have direct, physical access to certain enterprise equipment or infrastructure. In certain cases, specialized equipment and workspaces can be set up in workers’ homes, but that isn’t always the case – and for those that can’t, indefinite remote work is not a solution.
- Is this a short-term or long-term solution? For some organizations, the prospect of cost-saving on reduced real estate holdings is lucrative. For others, it’s more important to have a physical presence where its people can collaborate closely, and the public can physically see their footprint. Facebook, for example, has decided to move at least half of its workforce to permanent remote work by 2025. That said, it still is investing heavily in New York City commercial real estate.
Keeping employees engaged
Employee engagement and well-being – especially from a mental health standpoint – is more important than ever before. Top talent always is in high-demand, and employees who don’t feel as though their current situations are optimal for their own personal situations will leave when a better opportunity presents itself. And now, given the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19, organizations that force employees to come back to the office before they are ready to do so will stymie engagement and could lead to employees wondering if their current situation is the right fit.
If employees are vocal about wanting the opportunity to continue working remotely, it’s important to hear them out. Conversely, some employees may be eagerly awaiting the return to the office. These workers miss the separation between home and work; so much so, it’s blurring the lines between the two, making it hard to turn off their “work brain” when they log offline for the day. Over time, this can result in excessive mental stress for some. Be sure to also take these employees into account when evaluating when and how to return to the office.
Give them the freedom to work from home
For many reasons, working from home differs from working inside of a physical office. It’s important to remember that sometimes personal emergencies arise, and that every so often, they have to be dealt with before professional obligations. This is especially true with the corresponding rise of remote learning for school-aged children, which also has created childcare stressors for many. It’s to be expected that the traditional 9-5 schedule is not going to be possible with remote work for many individuals. Trusting employees to get their work done – whether that be in the early or latter hours of the day – is a good way to show trust and get the most out of employees. If employees have repeatedly shown that they are not capable of performing outside of an office environment though, consider bringing in select people for a more structured workplace.
It’s not an overstatement to say the COVID-19 pandemic may likely cause a paradigm shift toward widespread remote work for professionals around the globe. Many benefits have already been realized, causing businesses everywhere to consider long-term plans. But it isn’t an option for everyone, and it’s important to think through the various considerations when evaluating what makes sense for your employee base.
Have questions about your remote versus on-site work arrangements? We’d love to help! Our corporate relocation and commercial teams specialize in programs, policies and design strategies that keep employees engaged and safe!