When people discuss the impact of working from home on their lives, it is easy to think about the coronavirus. But if we take a step back and consider how workers lived and worked before the coronavirus, we can see that only a tiny portion of employees in the United States chose this option. In fact, only five percent of employees surveyed in 2010 or 2011 chose this option, while 61 percent of those surveyed in 2020 preferred to work from home. The fact that only a small portion of the workforce can work from home suggests that it is not as easy as it used to be.
It has been 25 years since companies allowed their employees to work from home. That trend has continued and even accelerated in some countries, such as New Zealand, where 27% of workers worked at home at one time or another during the week. In South Korea, Google tracking data suggests that workplace attendance has remained relatively stable since the covid pandemic hit the country, although attendance levels have fallen slightly. The benefits of working from home are undeniably worth the risk of contracting a deadly disease, and the potential cost savings have made working from home attractive.
Another employee who jumped on the bandwagon was Julie Steele, director of global internal communications at Twitter. She was drawn to the city due to its proximity to her family. But when she found out she could work from home, she decided to take the plunge. She was a telecommunications engineer by training and was able to enjoy the benefits of working remotely. But when her new employer offered her a flexible work schedule, she realized she would have more time to pursue her passions.
Working from home can be challenging for young and old alike, but the positive benefits are well worth the downsides. Young employees may feel isolated at home, but older employees are more likely to feel comfortable working from home than younger ones. The latter may feel that they are missing out on important mentoring or soft skills if they are not in the office. But this change is not for everyone. Even if there are some laggards, it will not be a permanent change for the workforce.
Another factor that impacts the productivity of remote workers is their lack of interaction with colleagues. Peer relationships flourish naturally in a conventional office, but they atrophy in a virtual office. But in a remote environment, employees may be more productive than their in-office counterparts, according to Joel W. Ratekin, director of the American Express virtual office program. However, remote workers need a manager to interact with them, and it may even take them a bit longer to get the answers they need.
For instance, Microsoft recently mandated that its non-essential employees work from home for at least half of their work time. By April 2020, it plans to make all US Microsoft employees fully WFH. Before COVID-19, just over 18 percent of employees at Microsoft had WFH status, which was a positive development. However, the transition to firm-wide WFH has not affected their own work status, but it did affect their colleagues’ remote work status.
Although working from home has its benefits, it can also create a work-life balance issue for some people. More than half of teleworkers report that the freedom to work at home makes it easier to balance work with family and other priorities, while one in 10 say that it is harder. Nonetheless, the benefits of working from home outweigh the negative aspects. In fact, many people say it helps them advance in their careers.
Work-life balance is another concern for employees when working from home. More than half of the surveyed respondents said they prioritize maintaining relationships with co-workers over their jobs. While a few workers said they preferred to work in the office, more than half of them found it difficult to maintain co-worker relationships. This is the opposite of the case for a majority of workers, but it is still important to find work-life balance.
The transition to remote work has caused a wide-scale change in the way employees communicate with each other. This change has affected the bridging ties among different groups, which were previously common in the firm. Although these connections might have provided access to information that was not available to the remote workers, they did not bridge structural gaps. This shift in the way people communicate has impacted the structural diversity of their ego networks. When employees work from home, they may spend less time on collaboration with bridging ties and more time on stronger ones.
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