Who will keep working from home?
Once the immediate COVID threat is contained, lots of people will transition back to working in offices, stores and other workplaces. Clearly, there are occupations which simply require being in person, like medical professions, restaurant jobs, delivery services and building and repair work. There are, though, many jobs which were historically not being done remotely which now are. Which of those employees will continue to work remotely? Let’s examine the characteristics of the job and the individual that are conducive to working from home.
Do the job responsibilities require being on site or physically with other people? If so, people with these jobs are unlikely to be able to work from home in the future. Certain jobs can be done remotely but are much more efficiently done in person. There are also people who work in teams on projects that may have physical parts to them (like engineers who are designing prototypes). They will be much more effective back at the workplace. Certain jobs benefit from access to physical items that don’t translate to any kind of computer file or on-line substitute. Conversely, people who work independently or are able to share ideas, conversations, and documents through available technology may work remotely permanently. Some people may take a hybrid approach and work partly from home.
While some people have surprised themselves by working more efficiently from home, others find themselves distracted. For some, it’s just a personality trait difference. Others have kids around or live in places where it’s difficult to concentrate. Some people crave the social interaction from an office environment and other feel they get more work done without constant interruptions from co-workers. Either way, the likelihood is that employers will want their employees to work in whatever setting maximizes their productivity.
The employer’s goal is always the financial health of the business or company. If less money needs to be spent on office space and furniture, the bottom line starts to look better. If employees working from home save an hour or more a day commuting and don’t have the costs related to that commute, they might be willing to take a slightly lower salary. Many people strongly prefer working from home. If an employee is as productive from home as from an office but prefers working from home, that employee will be more satisfied if permitted to do so. Happy employees stay at their jobs longer and minimize business’s costs of hiring and training their replacements. On the flip side, company cultures could suffer from lack of regular, in-person interaction. If that happens, some businesses may require everyone to be at the office. There are pros and cons and employers are sure to be giving the “Can I keep working from home?” request careful consideration.
What are the long term effects of continued remote work?
Working from home has become the new normal for millions of people nationwide. How many of them will continue to do so after it is safe to return to traditional work environments? The answer to that question affects not just the employers and employees, but the real estate market as well. From a residential perspective, it speaks to people moving out of cities and other areas where commutability to a job was previously important. If they don’t need to return to the workplace, they are not as tied-in to living in a certain place.
Additionally, many remote workers have discovered that they need more space as phone calls and work happening at home calls for more room as well as auditory privacy. Similarly, currently, most entertainment for both adults and kids is (currently) happening within the home. All of those factors combine to make many residences suddenly feel too small. The result is that many people are moving. Furthermore, the commercial real estate market will be hit hard. With companies no longer needing to provide so much office space, prices will plummet. Many businesses may need to reimagine some of their most basic assumptions.
Six months into the COVID epidemic and predicting what will happen as far as long-term remote working is unclear. Without a doubt, several factors affect the feasibility of remote work. The ripple effect, though, of a significant shift toward working from home, is much larger. Major changes will affect the housing market and demographics across the country. Companies may scramble to adjust to the changes resulting from this potential new reality. Regardless, we are living with plenty of uncertainty and the likelihood of some substantial changes in the way we live and work.