The spread of the novel coronavirus has pushed companies to rely on remote work in recent months. Some think this practice could (finally) be here to stay, touting laundry lists of benefits to employees and employers alike.
Unfortunately for those of us whose employers didn’t already have a work-from-home structure in place, the pros don’t outweigh the cons. This practice will be unsustainable for them in the long term and means we’ll all be back in the office eventually.
I haven’t had the “good fortune” of working from home during the quarantine season. I’ve still been going into the office each day, but I am experiencing the effects of 1/3 of my staff working from remote locations, including their homes. I am very much looking forward to having my team back together in the same location.
The appeal of working from home.
Who wouldn’t love being able to work in yoga pants?! Not going into an office means there’s no need for business casual attire. And so long as you don’t have any Zoom meetings, no one will know the difference.
Pro-tip for if you do have a video conference to attend — just dress professionally on top and turn the camera off before you stand up or walk away.
According to one article in The Washington Post, there were 4.3 million workers with commutes of 90 minutes or more in 2018. It certainly doesn’t take 90 minutes to go from the shower to the desk in your guest bedroom. That’s 1 commute that just can’t be beaten.
It’s not sustainable.
If you work for a company that didn’t already have an established remote work practice, then you probably only have a portion of your team or company set up to work from home currently. It’s more likely that your employer deployed work-from-home capabilities in recent times as part of a business continuity plan and to create social distance between essential employees.
The cost for a company to set up even a portion of its workforce with the equipment necessary to work remotely was both a large and unexpected expense. Finding funds in the budget to invest in equipment for everyone to do it simply isn’t going to happen. If it was, they would have done it already. Further, to just leave the company split permanently with part working from home and part coming into the office just isn’t fair.
It takes more than just physical equipment to work from home, though. You’ve got to have high-speed Internet access. And there are still many Americans who don’t have it, even in 2020.
This means companies may have employees who literally can’t work from home, because they don’t have an Internet connection or because the connection they do have simply wouldn’t support it.
Another hurdle for some could be that they do not have a dedicated workspace in which to perform the responsibilities of their role.
For some people, the bulk of their daily human interaction happens at the office. Many have found that, without that in-person connection, they feel lonely and depressed.
Real-Time Collaboration & Productivity
Collaboration is not as feasible in a virtual setting and can lead to missed opportunities and lessened creativity. We’re able to do it in the short term because we’ve transplanted “people who have worked with others at the main worksite before, have similar work styles, and like one another.”
Long-term, or with teams that don’t have previous relationships, this digital substitute doesn’t work.
On the productivity front, people tend to work harder when they’re around others who are working hard. So, when they’re at home? Alone? That impact doesn’t happen.
It’s extremely difficult to manage a team of people that are spread across multiple locations, with no option for face-to-face supervision. It’s not just managers who are challenged, though. Some employees also struggle with this arrangement, citing a perceived lack of support or communication.
We continue to see states open more and more, and see businesses that were previously closed get “back to work.” Much of this is still happening in phases, however, as it’s not yet safe or acceptable to have large groups of people in one space at a time. For many businesses, those spaces include the office.
Companies that shifted to remote work will shift back over time, rather than all at once, as the risk of infection spread is still too great. The phases of this shift are certain to speed up, though, once we have more progress in the way of extensive virus and antibody testing, and contact tracing.
Once this progress is made and the necessity of separation is no longer, everyone will go back to the office and widespread remote work will be a thing of the past.
If you’re currently working from home, enjoy it while it lasts!