With the increased distribution of vaccines and other containment measures, the myriad ways in which COVID-19 impacted day-to-day life gradual subside as 2021 progresses on. But, even with the old normal coming back in some facets, changes made in response to the pandemic will remain part of our culture — work from home is one such change.
Pew Research Center reported that just 12% of all workers in the United States performed their jobs exclusively from home. COVID-19 forced millions into virtual workplaces, peaking at more than 70% in April 2020 per a Gallup poll before trailing down to 58% in the fall.
Gallup's findings suggest that work from home isn't replacing a physical workplace post-pandemic, but far more employers are embracing the virtual office now that they have experienced firsthand benefits — and there are benefits.
Global Workplace Analytics reported that employers were saving roughly $11,000 per employee a year with remote work, and employees saw monetary benefits, as well. But in-person work has undeniable benefits that cannot be replicated remotely, too.
Employers face important decisions in the coming months about remote vs. office work, and the best bet may be giving employees flexibility; that is, the option to work remotely or in the office. Likewise, workers will have to weigh what's best for them.
Work from home's advantages, even pre-pandemic, were numerous. It has its drawbacks, however, which many of us experienced in our efforts to balance the expectations of jobs with life's responsibilities surrounding us at all times when there's no physical workspace to attend. In that same vein, not having a workplace to ever leave physically can lead to never quite mentally unplugging.
Ironically enough, as illustrated in a USA Today study, plenty of Americans have actually found remote work more stressful.
So what's the best option? Surely some facets to the physical workday are necessary. For employers with the capacity to do so, however, offering workers a flexible schedule — an open-door policy for the office but with the choice to work from home — may be the wave of the future.
Of course, that brings up its own questions. At what point is it not feasible to maintain a physical office space, which means paying rent, if it's not necessary? Shared workspaces offer a solution that could boom as 2021 continues.