Right now, work from home (WFH) is a measure for us to practice social distancing and fight the spread of COVID-19. But does this model have long-term business viability? Could companies willingly continue their WFH operations after the pandemic, without regulatory curbs and restrictions?
Industry trends suggest that the answer could be YES.
Digital workplace solutions provider, Citrix, recently conducted a survey to assess the long-term viability of WFH. The results were overwhelmingly optimistic. Nearly 1 out of 3 respondents said that home working will be the new normal once the threat of the virus passes, owing to the mutual gains achieved by both employees and the company.
For instance, companies can lower overheads – like rent, utility charges, housekeeping costs, etc. – if employees work remotely. On the employees’ side, they can say goodbye to their commute and improve their work-life balance.
Several companies are fast waking up to these benefits and are establishing more long-term WFH protocols. On May 12, 2020, Twitter sent out an email notification to its workforce, informing them that they can work from home as long as they want. At BT as well, the company will let its staff decide whether they want to come back to a physical office – this applies to its 8500-strong call centre workforce.
Other large companies like Nationwide (which went 98% WFH for COVID-19) have announced a permanent transition to a hybrid model, where some employees are permanently stationed at home. Barclays CEO, Jes Staley, was vocal in his thoughts against office working – “The notion of putting 7000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.”
Simply put, right now, the pros of WFH overwhelmingly outweigh the cons. In jobs where home working is possible, it is definitely poised to become the new normal, allowing employees to stay socially distant even as they contribute to a company’s growth. From a strategic perspective, companies could embrace WFH with open arms, hiring remote employees from across the world to come up with game-changing ideas and solutions during/after the crisis.
But there could be unexpected market movements that would shape this trend.
For instance, if real estate prices plummet after the crisis, companies would find it wise to invest in geographic expansion, opening up new offices. What won’t change is our new attitude towards WFH. We are viewing remote work with far more acceptance, appreciation, and understanding than ever before – this mindset change will carry on well beyond the pandemic.
This, clearly, is in many ways, the state of things to come. Remember, WFH has been on the cusp of becoming the new normal for almost a decade now. Way back in 2011, Skype came out with a report that looked at WFH’s acceptance (75%) and positive impacts on productivity (56%). COVD-19 has only led the WFH model to its natural conclusion, where it becomes embedded in our work-life purely organically.