Will COVID-19 cause a permanent shift toward virtual work?
If you’re sitting at home reading this on your phone, laptop, or computer, you’re not alone. Currently, hundreds of thousands of people who’d normally be at their offices are participating in social distancing and working from home to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
But many are asking, “If so many employees can work from home at such short notice, what will happen when the pandemic is over?”
How many Americans can work from home?
Working from home, also known as virtual or remote work, has been steadily on the rise in recent years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 2017 and 2018, almost 29 percent of all employees could work from home and 25 percent actually did. The majority of these people worked in the service and information sectors, where being onsite isn’t necessarily required, so long as there’s a good internet connection.
Arguments for and against
There are several obvious benefits to virtual work. Companies have lower overheads, which increases their profit margins. Fewer commuters on the road — and a healthier environment and a less stressed workforce — are benefits businesses can leverage in their employer branding to recruit top talent. Virtual work also widens the talent pool for employees and opportunities for workers. As Politico points out, once businesses have figured out how to deploy a virtual workforce, it’s going to be difficult to require all employees to work onsite again.
At the same time, one of the biggest arguments against virtual work has always been the challenge of supervising remote workers. Yet in the current situation, resourceful supervisors are adapting their management styles and leveraging the tools available to them. Fortunately, there’s been a steady rise in online collaboration and communication tools such as G Suite and Slack.
However, in the long run, remote work might turn out to have a negative psychological impact on employees, according to The Atlantic. Online communications can be less than clear, especially when you don’t see the other person’s expression. And without the usual environment of chit chat, office banter, and in-person conversations, employees can wind up feeling alone and isolated at home.
It’s impossible to predict exactly what “normal” will be once this pandemic is over. Maybe more companies will make the switch to virtual work so employees can enjoy a better work-life balance. On the other hand, perhaps this challenge will show that productivity and creativity are better suited for onsite group settings.
Whatever happens, the most important things are to make your work environment work for you — no matter where it is – and be open to the possibility of virtual work becoming a permanent workstyle.
Interested in learning more about virtual work and work from home jobs? Download our ebook, Coming to a home near you: virtual work, for information, trends, and tips, and check out our current list of work from home jobs. Remember to check back often, as our opportunities are continually updated.
If your assignment is on pause because of the COVID-19 situation, we understand the anxiety and disruption you’re facing. And while we don’t have all the answers yet about how long this public health crisis will persist, please know Kelly remains open and operational – here to serve and champion for you.
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