For many of us when we think about working, our mind typically brings us first to our workplace. For some, their workplace may be in a standard office building, perhaps in a cubicle, with an officemate or, if perhaps an office of your own. But regardless of what your normal workplace looks like, it most likely looks nothing like your home.
However in early 2020 when COVID-19 began sweeping across the globe, the social distancing measures that came along with it began to have an effect on virtually every industry. Businesses were quickly forced to become flexible and adapt to social distancing measures, which meant, when it came to the nonessential workforce, not being able to have droves of workers physically in the office. Instead, people would have to be given the resources to work remotely, from the comfort of their own homes.
While this transition came with growing pains for many businesses, once a new normal set in, some businesses began seeing the situation as a potential long-term solution.
Changing of the times
One of the first major companies to announce their plans to permanently extend the work-from-home operation to all of its employees indefinitely was social media giant, Twitter. In their announcement, CEO of Twitter, Mark Dorsey, told the company’s employees that they plan to continue being leaders in the work-from-home initiative, saying their reasoning is to “continue to put the safety of our people and communities first.”
After this announcement, other Silicon Valley giants began to follow in stride: Facebook, Google, and Microsoft began announcing their plans to extend their work-from-home policies. Although these other titans of industry didn’t make any formal announcement about it becoming indefinite, they did leave the door open to the idea in the future.
For Johnson & Wales University College of Online Education online professor and human resources professional Craig Nathanson, Ph.D., this is a move he said he’s been expecting. “Twitter's announcement is a good idea and long needed,” he explained. “We have now moved into an era of having a work portfolio. That is, how we work, when we work, and where we work is not as important as why we are working and if we can achieve our goals.”
But after the taboo at the idea of working from home indefinitely wears off, what does it really mean for the future of the workforce?
What does working from home look like?
For the companies adjusting to a working-from-home culture, Nathanson said that they will need to anticipate things looking different than they currently do. “Companies have invested lots of money into buildings and infrastructure,” he said. “The pandemic has made all of us realize that a lot of this isn't essential anymore. I think this will cause a new paradigm of thinking when it comes to time and place.”
This could mean that if working from home becomes the new normal, companies wouldn’t need fancy skyrise buildings for people to work in. “The pros for the employer are less money to be spent on infrastructure,” he said.
Meanwhile, it would allow them to recruit talent from a national pool of candidates, just one of the many benefits Nathanson says working from home could have for not just businesses but employees, too. “For the employee, working away from the company office meets the needs of workers, especially the new generation who want to work at their own pace, time, and schedule,” he said.
Growing Pains Becomes Opportunity
However, there are some who are less optimistic when it comes to working from home becoming the new normal, especially in such a generationally diverse workforce. “The downside for organizations might be with those leaders stuck in old modes of management thinking where face-time is most important,” Nathanson said. “I also think some people who have not as yet built up enough self-confidence may feel a little reluctant to work from home, but in the end, this will be good for them.”
But despite what workplace culture may or may not become, Nathanson said that if any good could come out of these trying times, we might as well begin thinking about how we can improve tomorrow. “Overall, while the pandemic is a terrible crisis in our history, out of disaster, we can plant the seeds of new ideas and, hopefully, positive changes to us and our environment. I'm hopeful and I am certainly cheering for this.”