Telecommuting became the norm across the world almost overnight due to the coronavirus pandemic. An MIT survey conducted back in April found that out of the 25,000 surveyed, 34% were working from home. An additional 15% had been working from home before the pandemic began. That means that in the United States half of employees were working remotely.
Even before the pandemic, telecommuting already had supporters. Research has found that working from home can make employees more productive and gives them a better work/life balance, leading to improved mental health. Additionally, the lack of commute means that employees have more time during the day and spend less money on gas.
Despite these benefits to telecommuting, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 7% of employees had the option to work flexibly. The pandemic saw several employees work from home, proving that it is indeed possible to work remotely. More people have learned to use remote technology and due to this, we could see telecommuting gain even more support.
“Telecommuting is associated with many benefits for employees, such as increased job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job performance and lower work stress and exhaustion,” write researchers Timothy Golden,Tammy Allen and Kristen Shockley.
But as society confronts this pandemic and eventually “normalcy” returns, what will telecommuting look like?
It’s hard to predict what direction companies will go after COVID19, because there are both pros and cons to telecommuting. On one hand, telecommuting can reduce office and transport costs and provide an environment for employees to be more productive. On the other hand, managing a staff remotely can be difficult and the professional isolation from coworkers can negatively affect career development and general well being.
Several companies such as Twitter and Nationwide Insurance have already told their employees that they have the option to work home permanently. Google and Facebook have extended work-from-home policies until early next year. It’ll be likely that as the world grapples with covid-19, companies will continue to extend its work-from-home policies and might even make it permanent like Twitter has.
Notable figures like Richard Branson have also voiced support for telecommuting. Branson stated that “we like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they are at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.”
Perhaps telecommuting won’t be the preferred option for everyone. There are industries where remote working is nearly impossible. However, through this pandemic it’s been clear that it is indeed possible for many. Technology has enabled society to make the transition to telecommuting fairly smoothly. And with time, even more technology can be created to make telecommuting even better. It’s hard to determine what the future of telecommuting is. Yet, the coronavirus pandemic has taught us that regardless of what that future looks like, telecommuting does have a future.