Due to the pandemic, working remotely has grown significantly in the United States and other counties as well.
The V shape growth of this type of work occurred not because it was planned, but was primarily due to the shutdown of businesses across the U.S.
Employees have been told to stay home, shelter in place, self quarantine and isolate themselves. We’ve been directed to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash our hands regularly. Many companies have been forced to keep employees at home for safety reasons. These businesses had to adjust to having a large portion, if not all, of their workers log in remotely. This has been working so far, in those industries where the work performed is conducive to a remote working environment.
The trend over the last few years of workers performing needed functions from home, has been trending upward as a result of the “gig economy”. The gig workforce looks for flexibility in working remotely, as this is their main way of earning a living, or some corporate workers have a “side gig” apart from their office based full-time work or other retail job.
Many vendors and independent contractors, who are self-employed and service the business community, typically work from home anyway. For them, the shutdown was status quo. Although, business stopped for a few months as everyone was adapting to what was going on with the virus.
Trend lines have been slowly going up over the past few years of employees working remotely, a couple of days a week in the business sector. Some employees have these arrangements due to personal needs, or they prefer the flexibility of this work schedule.
What the pandemic has revealed to businesses owners and company execs is a hybrid model of a couple of days working from home and a couple of days in the office is feasible in the longer term. In some instances, a fully remote work force worked for some businesses during the shutdown.
What the pandemic taught the business community is that there may not be a need for as much commercial office space that businesses lease and own, in order to house their workers in offices and cubicles.
So, is there a likelihood that remote work will continue to grow and workers will continue to work from home? Remote working options work well for those employees who are self motivated and don’t need to be supervised. In our opinion, many people are not wired to work remotely without interacting with live people or without direct supervision. We come to this conclusion because our current educational system is not set up in a way where kids are taught this employment model at an early age.
Public and private schools have a transportation and facility based educational model. Children are trained to get on a school bus, go to a building, be educated, and take a bus back home. School is where they learn social skills and routines are established.
This model is the model we employ when going to work in the U.S. for the most part. We drive to work, sit in a building, socially interact and go back home. Of course, some professions work out of cars and trucks and at retail locations.
Will remote working be the norm going forward? We don’t think so, not in the near term anyway. We believe there are industries that are conducive to fully remote working environments. Some institutions will do better with a hybrid model, some office days, some remote. Professional service firms and white collar services can be done remotely. Those services are conductive to a computer and a web connection. No face to face interactions required for the most part, with some exceptions.
But those services that require a trades license or consumer interactions, particularly in the B2C markets will need employees outside of their homes.
Many home services, plumbing, heating and air, landscaping services, painters, roofers, car mechanics, fine dining, road and home construction, home health all require a hands on skill and consumer interaction, for the most part. These are just a few industries. Sure there will be industries that will continue to grow in the remote work environment. But they’re going be just as many industries, if not more, that will still need human interaction with a live body.
We do see a continued growth trend in the work from home environment, overall. We don't believe it’s going to be the standard, not at this time. There are too many nationwide issues that need to be addressed, technology transfer and infrastructure, internet access and speed, to name a few.
Another challenge, are employers willing to move workers remotely? Capital infrastructure (rent/lease payments) are already factored into their bottom line. Cutting that will go straight to the bottom line. That's a good thing. But, if employees are not productive, that may harm profits more. This issue alone can limit the workforce available to work from home, as employers may be reluctant to make it the norm, making workers come into a location.
If businesses believe having remote workers will be a profitable venture, and their employees are productive and the work can be done from home, there’s no reason not to do it. Some employees can be trained to work from home, others will not adapt. This is due to our educational systems not being prepared to train home based workers. Additionally, some workers need direct supervision and social interaction with other employees.
Remote worker growth trends will continue to go up, but not as fast as many may think.
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