Is working from home (WFH) here to stay?  How fast will the acceleration to WFH jobs happen?  Will this trend continue and what should we do about it?  In this post, we are going to address four basic trends regarding WFH and then explore the pros and cons of a WFH culture.

TREND 1:  THE RESULTS ARE MIXED:  Facebook and Twitter recently made decisions to commit to a permanent work from home culture. Yet other companies, like Amazon seem to be headed in the other direction, making an announcement to add thousands of white color jobs in six U.S. cities with the emphasis on work in the office jobs. Why? See the WFH pros and cons below.   

TREND 2. Business will embrace flexibility for WFH: In the past, there was a social stigma at many companies surrounding those who worked from home. For instance, a dog barking during a meeting is no longer a sign of a lazy employee. Having kids on your lap during a zoom call is no longer frowned upon. We are in the Wild West of figuring it all out, but embracing WFH in a more constructive fashion seems to be here to stay.

TREND 3. The tension of work/life integration will intensify: We thought that mobile devices and having the ability to constantly be connected to work blurred the line of work-life vs. home life, but then quarantine happened! As the work/life distinction diminishes, we will start to see better methodologies to deal with this issue.

TREND 4.  Clarifying and even automating processes is accelerating in importance: Being in the office allowed many unproductive jobs and/or processes to stay in force. In the future, this will no longer be the case. Jobs will be restructured to be at-home or in-office to clarify roles and avoid ambiguity.   

As we track and evaluate the trends, let’s examine the current pros and cons of the WFH movement.   

Advantages:

1. Recruiting: There is no doubt that allowing WFH allows your department or organization to recruit a wider range and more talented workforce. Today, the average American lives 12 miles from work and the average daily commute is just under thirty minutes each way. This fact limits the hiring pool for your talent, thus expanding that radius through WFH expands the talent pool without forcing people to move close to your office.   As the world continues to evolve, we will see centers of expertise so you could hire the best finance talent from New York or London, the best web designers from Silicon Valley or the best engineers from Detroit to work for your firm. Worrying about the location and relocation of employees will become a thing of the past.

2. Retention and employee satisfaction: According to an HBR article on WFH, people on average are willing to give up 8% of pay in order to have a work-from-home option. 

In addition, from a Hubspot survey  on WFH:

·      72% of talent professionals agree that work flexibility (which includes remote work options) will be very important for the future of HR and recruiting. 

·      83% of workers, remote or on-site, say that a remote work opportunity would make them feel happier at their job. 

·      81% of employees say that the option to work remotely would make them more likely to recommend their company to job candidates and prospects. 

·      74% of employees say that a remote work option would make them less likely to leave their company. 

Our intuition states it and the research backs it: WFH is a great retention tool.

3. Productivity: WFH by default has some inherent productivity gains for all jobs:

·      On average people spend just under an hour a day commuting. Based on this, 25 to 50 days a year are created by WFH vs. commuting to and from an office.

·      In general, we have fewer interruptions at home and have an easier time sticking to a schedule. (Note: with kids at home during COVID this is less the case today but this issue will negate once we have a vaccine and/or our kids are back in school.) 

4. In some cases, the job itself is more productive at home vs. in office: In the same HBR article, Nicholas Bloom writes that in call center research he conducted, he found:

·      Workers made 13.5% more calls, which accounts to an extra workday a week. 

·      The workers quit at half the rate. Half!!!

·      There was higher job satisfaction.

·      There was higher productivity due to quieter environments, longer days, no commute and less distractions. 

·      Sick Days plummeted.

Disadvantages.   

1. On-Boarding and training: A clear disadvantage of a total WFH culture is the ability to onboard and train new employees. Although technical issues can be trained online, getting to know fellow workers, understand the culture, and feeling valued as “part of the team” are much more difficult.   

2. Collaboration: Although jobs like a call center host or trading analyst are much easier to pull off in WFH, collaboration is admittedly more difficult. Departments and organizations will need to bifurcate WFH jobs from collaborative office jobs to be effective here. This is easier said than done. 

3. Some projects are taking longer: I have read several studies that indicate team creation, although possible, is more difficult with WFH situations and deadlines are being missed because of it. 

4. Concern over speed of advancement for newer employees: Although I have not seen data on this issue. It is intuitive, but not proven.  

So, what are the best practices in how to handle some of these disadvantages? Stay tuned for part 2 of this three-part series on the future of WFH.

TREND 1:  THE RESULTS ARE MIXED:  Facebook and Twitter recently made decisions to commit to a permanent work from home culture. Yet other companies, like Amazon seem to be headed in the other direction, making an announcement to add thousands of white color jobs in six U.S. cities with the emphasis on work in the office jobs. Why? See the WFH pros and cons below.   

TREND 2. Business will embrace flexibility for WFH: In the past, there was a social stigma at many companies surrounding those who worked from home. For instance, a dog barking during a meeting is no longer a sign of a lazy employee. Having kids on your lap during a zoom call is no longer frowned upon. We are in the Wild West of figuring it all out, but embracing WFH in a more constructive fashion seems to be here to stay.

TREND 3. The tension of work/life integration will intensify: We thought that mobile devices and having the ability to constantly be connected to work blurred the line of work-life vs. home life, but then quarantine happened! As the work/life distinction diminishes, we will start to see better methodologies to deal with this issue.

TREND 4.  Clarifying and even automating processes is accelerating in importance: Being in the office allowed many unproductive jobs and/or processes to stay in force. In the future, this will no longer be the case. Jobs will be restructured to be at-home or in-office to clarify roles and avoid ambiguity.   

As we track and evaluate the trends, let’s examine the current pros and cons of the WFH movement.   

Advantages:

1. Recruiting: There is no doubt that allowing WFH allows your department or organization to recruit a wider range and more talented workforce. Today, the average American lives 12 miles from work and the average daily commute is just under thirty minutes each way. This fact limits the hiring pool for your talent, thus expanding that radius through WFH expands the talent pool without forcing people to move close to your office.   As the world continues to evolve, we will see centers of expertise so you could hire the best finance talent from New York or London, the best web designers from Silicon Valley or the best engineers from Detroit to work for your firm. Worrying about the location and relocation of employees will become a thing of the past.

2. Retention and employee satisfaction: According to an HBR article on WFH, people on average are willing to give up 8% of pay in order to have a work-from-home option. 

In addition, from a Hubspot survey  on WFH:

·      72% of talent professionals agree that work flexibility (which includes remote work options) will be very important for the future of HR and recruiting. 

·      83% of workers, remote or on-site, say that a remote work opportunity would make them feel happier at their job. 

·      81% of employees say that the option to work remotely would make them more likely to recommend their company to job candidates and prospects. 

·      74% of employees say that a remote work option would make them less likely to leave their company. 

Our intuition states it and the research backs it: WFH is a great retention tool.

3. Productivity: WFH by default has some inherent productivity gains for all jobs:

·      On average people spend just under an hour a day commuting. Based on this, 25 to 50 days a year are created by WFH vs. commuting to and from an office.

·      In general, we have fewer interruptions at home and have an easier time sticking to a schedule. (Note: with kids at home during COVID this is less the case today but this issue will negate once we have a vaccine and/or our kids are back in school.) 

4. In some cases, the job itself is more productive at home vs. in office: In the same HBR article, Nicholas Bloom writes that in call center research he conducted, he found:

·      Workers made 13.5% more calls, which accounts to an extra workday a week. 

·      The workers quit at half the rate. Half!!!

·      There was higher job satisfaction.

·      There was higher productivity due to quieter environments, longer days, no commute and less distractions. 

·      Sick Days plummeted.

Disadvantages.   

1. On-Boarding and training: A clear disadvantage of a total WFH culture is the ability to onboard and train new employees. Although technical issues can be trained online, getting to know fellow workers, understand the culture, and feeling valued as “part of the team” are much more difficult.   

2. Collaboration: Although jobs like a call center host or trading analyst are much easier to pull off in WFH, collaboration is admittedly more difficult. Departments and organizations will need to bifurcate WFH jobs from collaborative office jobs to be effective here. This is easier said than done. 

3. Some projects are taking longer: I have read several studies that indicate team creation, although possible, is more difficult with WFH situations and deadlines are being missed because of it. 

4. Concern over speed of advancement for newer employees: Although I have not seen data on this issue. It is intuitive, but not proven.  

So, what are the best practices in how to handle some of these disadvantages? Stay tuned for part 2 of this three-part series on the future of WFH.

 

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