Amid the pandemic, many businesses allowed their staff to work from home (‘WFH’). With Human Resources (HR) specialists and business analysts claiming that WFH can improve business performance and facilitate employees to juggle between professional and family life, this experimental form of working is often depicted as revolutionary or even ideal. However, as many workers head into their fourth month of telecommuting, can this experiment be adopted in the long run, even when the pandemic is over?
In light of the current situation, working from home is, without any doubt, a preferred arrangement in order to protect personnel’s health and safety by reducing their exposure to the virus. Research also shows that remote working comes with side benefits. WSP, a Canadian-based consultancy company with offices in the UK, discovered that in Britain, ‘working from home rather than the office in summer saves around 400kg of carbon emissions’ (WSP 2020). Besides a positive environmental impact, working from home is said to improve staff productivity; Forbes reports that in America, home-office employees have a ‘47% increase in productivity’ (Westfall 2020). Indeed, WFH and its positive attributes were being tapped into even before the start of the pandemic. Many tech companies, e.g. Amazon and Dell, have a documented history of offering remote working opportunities.
However, working from home can be viewed as a luxury for many. For some, such as NHS staff and sales advisors, the nature of their jobs prohibits them from working remotely. Even for those who can work from home, there are still some issues to remedy with said business structure. Despite government subsidies, working from home can increase expenses for many families. For instance, the cost of purchasing extra office equipment can burden some families financially. Additionally, the new WFH arrangement can potentially affect employees’ mental health. The act of commuting to work often helps us separate the domestic sphere from the working sphere. However, this new working style discourages mobility, and movement is certainly important during a pandemic which seems to have brought a sense of physical and social stagnation. In the long run, WFH may subsequently affect our perception of spaces and make us feel entrapped in the same confined, domestic space. Since working from home relies on technology, for those who are not technologically adept, this can also increase their stress levels and affect their mental health.
Companies must provide sufficient help and support to staff during this difficult time. Indeed, when adopting permanent WFH changes in the future, companies should consider the feedback of their employees. HR certainly plays an important role in providing a smooth transition from the old form of working to the ‘new’ norm. After all, everyone wants to work in a cozy space!
Referenced and suggested reading:
- Westfall, Chris. 2020. “New Survey Shows 47% Increase In Productivity: 3 Things You Must Do When Working From Home”, Forbes <https://www.forbes.com/sites/chriswestfall/2020/05/20/new-survey-shows-47-increase-in-productivity-3-things-you-must-do-when-working-from-home/#5032a0ff80dc> [accessed 6 August 2020]
- WSP. 2020. “Can office working save our carbon footprint?”, WSPglobal <https://www.wsp.com/en-GB/insights/office-vs-home-working-how-we-can-save-our-carbon-footprint> [accessed 6 August 2020]
[Ernest Shiu– he/ him – @shiuology]
[Image Credit: cottonbro]