The COVID-19 crisis has forced many organizations to ask their employees to work remotely, so they are not at risk of catching or giving someone the flu.
Working from home is nothing new. What is new is the number of people who will now be doing it as we get through this period of self-immunization.
While the numbers are not immediately available, I would guess that the next two weeks will have the most significant percentage of U.S. households working virtually we have ever seen.
While estimates say that just over 40% of people work from home occasionally, the percentage of employees who work virtually all the time is relatively low – only over 5%.
I believe that this massive social experiment brought on by COVID-19 is going to lead to companies rethinking their policies about remote work. Some of the implications are:
- Productivity can be maintained (potentially improved) with a decentralized workforce.
- Cost savings can be generated – smaller real estate footprint, higher hours per employee, and lower insurance costs. Healthcare costs will also be lowered as the risks of employees catching or bringing illness into the work environment is decreased.
- Remote work will expand the talent pool. Companies will find that they can expand their talent pool by not having to have geographic limits.
- Retention can increase as employee job satisfaction improves due to work/life balance improvements.
Remote work will also help to reduce traffic congestion, pollution, and accidents. All of these factors will give local governments motivation to craft legislation to incentive increased work from home.
The shift to remote work may not be entirely positive. Remote work increases the risks of social isolation. Humans are social creatures (event the INTJ’s!). They need to have avenues to connect with others, be part of something bigger than themselves, and having meaningful relationships. Working from home can create a barrier. Virtual work can also potentially limit the career mobility of employees as they lose visibility within the organization.
My prediction is that we will look back at this moment in time and point to the COVID-19 crisis as the tipping point where remote work grew at a massive scale.