At the onset of the COVID -19 pandemic, many employees got sent home to protect their health and safety. At the time, it was unclear how long this state of working would last as the uncertainty around COVID-19 testing, its vaccines, and how the United States economy would handle the sudden switch to working from home. This switch was vital for the economy and the lives saved by slowing down infection rates through lockdowns. Though there have been over 700,000 lives lost in the United States to date, estimations indicate that the lockdowns prevented tens of millions of infections and saved millions of lives.
While incredibly effective in the fight against COVID-19, a work-from-home model had a significant impact on workers. Some could not remain at work but could not perform their job functions from home. Speaking on the topic of the new era of working from home, Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom explains the current state of working in the United States, “We see an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time. About another 33 percent are not working – a testament to the savage impact of the lockdown recession. And the remaining 26 percent – mostly essential service workers – are working on their business premises. So, by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working-from-home economy. Almost twice as many employees are working from home as at work.”
Based on recent surveys, 80% of companies plan to allow employees to work remotely part-time, and 47% will allow remote work full-time. Executives now see the benefit of remote work rather than the perceived loss of productivity it would cause. According to a PWC CFO survey, “nearly half of the surveyed financial executives expected productivity loss because of a lack of remote work capabilities. Two months later, when asked again, just 26% of CFOs anticipated productivity loss in the month ahead.” This change is significant to the perception of working from home as a viable option, which has helped steer the ship of continued remote work to more opportune shores. As companies take this step towards allowing continued remote work, focusing on health and wellness will be the key to its success. Working from home, while its flexibility inherently creates an employee-oriented work environment, cannot succeed as a perfect tool for employees without strategies to prevent burnout. According to a PWC CEO panel survey, “When employees are working from home, they are less likely to take time off or unplug, and thus are more prone to burnout. Among our respondents, 11% selected as their top emerging business model to change the need to become more employee-oriented by expanding health, safety, and wellness programs.” As these issues are being settled and discussed by the executives, it should be critical to consider that job seekers are looking for remote work opportunities.