Over half of America is working from home presently. As the COVID-19 pandemic is being kept track of, the country’s workforce may continue working from home for the foreseeable future. Even once the crisis has passed, the likelihood of telecommuting to work becoming a foreign concept for most people is slim. Like Twitter, some companies have even shifted their policies to allow their employees to work from home permanently. Major company shifts like this will have an impact across America, but whether that impact will be good or bad is hard to say. There are pros and cons to telecommuting that should be examined amid this shift.
PRO: Work/Life Balance
The average American commutes about 27 minutes to and from work each day—that adds up to about nine days every year sitting in transit. Nine days out of 365 may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but those nine days could be spent with loved ones rather than your mode of transportation. Working from home will improve work-life balance, which is necessary for our health. Not only are employees with a strong work-life balance healthier, but they also miss fewer days of work, are more engaged with their job, perform better, and are less likely to burn out than their peers.
CON: Work Culture
On the other hand, working from home rather than traveling to the office cuts down on colleagues’ connection. Part of working at an office is the social atmosphere of it; chatting and building relationships with your coworkers affect the attitude you’ll have toward your employer and work in general. Being social is a strong aspect of work culture, and not one easily mimicked digitally.
The distractions of homelife might seem like something that would make employees less productive than when they’re at the office, but the reality is actually the opposite. German studies show that employees who can set their own start and stop times log more than seven hours a week more than what they’re meant to work, and we’re currently seeing this play out in real-time. Out of the workers who have transitioned to working from home, 65% say their productivity has increased, and 77% say they’ve found new times to be productive outside of the 9-to-5 workday.
No longer meeting face-to-face produces a new communication hurdle for managers to try and jump over: all communication must now be through written or spoke words without relying on nonverbal cues. Posture, eye contact, and proximity are important in professional relationships, because all of these things can help reinforce the verbal message you’re trying to convey as well as emoting an air of confidence, enthusiasm, and trust. Exuding that over email or voice calls (since video call isn’t always reliable) is challenging to do, making open and clear communication crucial to successful telecommuting.