woman working on laptop at home on bed

Working from home & The Pandemic

Telecommuting, working remotely, mobile working, working from home, hoteling. Whatever you’d like to call it. With all the border closures and stay-home orders, what’s the deal with working from home? Is it just a temporary impact of the corona-virus?

Nobody could have predicted the massive impact of the Covid-19 virus. The risk it poses to employee & community health changes mobile working from a “nice-to-have” to an “implement-yesterday” program. Many companies are reacting by quickly adopting work-from-home models. However, for some, the work-from-home model has been part of an ongoing plan. According to CBRE, 50% of multinationals already offer some form of mobile working system, with another 42% implementing it with the “near future” – probably immediately given the current pandemic. Whilst that might seem like a questionably large number, there are some significant benefits to working from home, when done properly:

  1. Talent acquisition & retention: Several surveys of job seekers found that professionals deeply value flexibility in both timing and location. So much so that 70% of jobseekers feel mobile working is an essential offering when evaluating new jobs. Given the number of multinationals that now offer this, this really is a must in order to attract and retain top talent. The recent debacle at Charter (below) is a great example of why being ahead, if not on-par for employees is so important.
  2. Increased productivity: There’s lots of data that suggests working from home increases productivity. A study by Bloom et al (2015) and a study by Harvard (2020), both found measurable productivity increases of over 4%. With no increase in cost to the employer.
  3. Cost reduction: Jones Lang Lasalle’s recent occupancy benchmarking study revealed that traditional desks were only utilized half the time. And conference spaces were used less than half the time. A mobile working program would allow for much better utilization of space. Allowing for spaces better designed to support how people actually work (activity based working). Ultimately reducing real estate costs. For those with otherwise long commutes, or commitments that make traditional office hours difficult, mobile working has a huge appeal. Turns out, that’s not a minority of people either. Many very talented people are willing to accept 8% less pay if they could work from home. Which makes perfect sense to me. I’d happily trade my commute time for time with my family. The mental peace is worth a every penny.
  4. Health & Wellness: The obvious benefit, especially during the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, is employee & community health. Social distancing is strongly recommended by the WHO, almost every health care professional, and prevents health care systems from being overwhelmed. If that wasn’t enough, the backlash & disgruntlement from employees – as is the case with Charter’s abysmal response – should be more than enough reason for companies to implement a solution.

Working from home isn’t all unicorns & rainbows. The loss of face-to-face human interaction reduces the feeling of belonging, team connection, and increases loneliness. As a (non-pandemic) long-term program, this is something that needs to be properly thought through. It should be implemented along with measures to keep teams well connected to each other. Whether that’s semi-regular in-person social events, or other types of meet-ups. We are social creatures and need regular human interaction to stay healthy and grow. Working from home is about more than just productivity, costs and numbers – it’s about better supporting & enabling your people, the same people that power your organization.