Advantages & Disadvantages of Working From Home For Companies and Employees
It is safe to say that Covid-19 has provoked companies across all industries to rethink their operations. However, what does all of this mean specifically for the tech world? How will unprecedented times affect business operation models for years to come? Working from home has the potential to become a permanent part of the typical workday. Luckily, this has been a smooth transition for the technology industry. Tech companies are taking note of the economic benefits and that working from home has brought. Remote collaboration is also an easy learning curve for most tech employees. By late April, more than half of all workers, accounting for more than two-thirds of all U.S. economic activity, said they were working from home full-time.
What are some of the benefits of working from home for employers? Well, each remote worker saves their employer an average of $10,000 a year on a workspace and related expenses, according to sources. This is saved through cut costs of absenteeism, payroll, and employee turnover. This can translate to much more revenue for a company overall. Employers can also tap into talent anywhere around the world since their workforce is no longer location-dependent. Working from home also provides the flexibility that many employees seek. It allows workers with children to be home more and saves hours of commuting time. This can enable access to a better work-life balance. It can also be especially helpful for job seekers living in rural communities and small towns where there may not be many available local positions, enabling a broad range of opportunities for people despite their geographic location. With the already established reliance on the internet and the wide availability of computers, the tech industry is more than prepared than some other sectors for the cultural shift to remote work.
This is not to say that there are not also disadvantages to working remotely. An area that is definitely impacted by this work model is company culture. It can be especially hard to maintain a tight-knit work environment when employees are rarely gathered in one place at the same time. Social events and overall relationships between employees and employers become vulnerable to becoming stagnant or weakened. Isolation can also be another tough factor. Those who thrive in group environments will surely struggle with spending workdays in solitude and will need to practice a new degree of diligence when it comes to their independent schedules.
Our newly evolving remote world also has some interesting effects on recent graduates looking to enter the field. As someone who was seeking employment amidst this cultural shift to remote work, there were some advantages and disadvantages that I experienced first-hand being in the job market at this time. The first effect I saw was all the time that I saved throughout the interview processes. We have all been there, commuting all the way to an interview after taking off of work or school, just to get rejected and move onto other opportunities. I was able to save time and money being interviewed remotely.
But the physical disconnect of online connections makes it harder to fully express yourself in an interview. It is more difficult to present your body language and demeanor from the torso up through a camera. Overall, leaving that important first impression on the employer becomes difficult, especially if one is not used to presenting themselves through a computer. It is equally difficult to read the body language of the interviewer and to perceive the culture of the company and what its values are.
Some large companies are taking advantage of the current workforce shift and reaping the benefits.
Here are some popular tech companies and their stance on WFH:
Microsoft: allowing all employees to have the option to work from home; permanently.
Twitter: Opening back up offices and giving employees the option to work from home forever.
Slack: Most Slack employees have the option to work from home permanently, and Slack is committing to hiring more permanently remote employees.
Shopify: All of Shopify’s 5,000 employees can work from home indefinitely.
Lambda School: Rolled out a permanent work-from-anywhere policy, and employees can work from anywhere in the U.S.
Nationwide Insurance: permanently transitioning to a blended work model, with the majority of employees working from home indefinitely.
As working from home becomes more common, it will become increasingly more important to solidify the tips and skills necessary for working from home effectively.
Being an employee that has begun working remotely, here are some tips that have most helped me with my personal adjustment:
- Establish a schedule/routine – When you work in an office, you typically start work, take breaks, eat lunch, and end work at the same time every day. Create a new schedule for WFH and stick to it. A schedule will help your brain acclimate to the routine of your new work environment. If you are splitting your time between going into the office and WFH, try to align your WFH schedule with what you do at the office. It will make the transition back and forth easier.
- Designate a “home office” workspace – Your home is where you do personal things with friends and family, and your mind associates the physical space with those activities. Your office or cubicle is where you block out personal issues and do tasks for work. It is essential to establish a “work” environment at home if you want to make WFH successful. Set up a desk, a home office in a spare room, or other designated workspace and use it only for that purpose. When you are in that space, you are “at work.” Avoid bringing personal activities into your home office if you can.
- Let those around you know when you are working – Many people work from home because it enables them to care for children, parents, or a sick family member. In these situations, there are likely to be other people in the house when you are trying to work. Establish a signal to let those around you know when you are working and a protocol for disturbing you. Examples might include turning on a lamp when you are focusing, closing a door to the home office, or wearing a set of headphones when you are on a call. If you must be disturbed, establish a process – hand you a note, knock on the door, send you a text, etc.
- Avoid blending home time and work time – It is easy when you are WFH to do laundry while on a conference call, or supervise a child doing an activity in the same room where you are working. It is also tempting to respond to work emails on your phone during dinner or during family time. When you do this, you don’t give your full attention to either work or home. If you need to do personal things during the day, schedule them on your calendar, take a break from work, and focus on your family. If you need to attend to work in the evening, excuse yourself from the personal situation, take care of your work, and then come back. Don’t try to do both at the same time.
- Make an extra effort to maintain work relationships– When you are in the office, you develop work relationships with co-workers in the few minutes before a meeting starts, during breaks or over lunch. These relationships are good for morale, make you feel part of a team, help you get work done more effectively, and are important to career growth. When working from home, it is easy to focus on getting the job done, then sign off, making business interactions impersonal. You can counteract this by setting up 1:1 time with co-workers, managers, and others in your company with the express purpose of developing relationships.
All in all, the future seems bright for the integration of a remote workforce in the tech industry, and our company has adjusted seamlessly to the change. With the increasing popularity, as well as the cultural acceptance of a remote workforce brought by the pandemic, we will surely learn more about the new role that WFH plays in the tech industry.