Companies worldwide are increasingly allowing employees to work remotely following shelter-in-place and lockdown orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses have made serious investments to enable continued productivity among their staff, freeing them from the concerns of coming into the office.
Credit Unions have encouraged the work-from-home environment for its employees should they fall ill or are exposed to the virus. The accommodation provides a quiet, stable environment for employees — a significantly different situation than the reality of being in the office, which can be potentially extremely distracting to some workers, with concerns about public health the topic of many water-cooler conversations. Team Eltropy is also embracing this policy, joining employers nationwide by embracing a “prepare-but-do-not-panic” mentality that helps to maintain morale and productivity.
The remote work strategy is gaining momentum. Gallup data from the end of April found that 63 percent of U.S. employees had worked from home in the past seven days because of coronavirus concerns. That figure was double the 31 percent who reported not going into the office just three weeks earlier. So why have businesses that previously shunned work-from-home policies given their employees the green light to set up shop at home?
One reason may be health-related. The New York Times reported that the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel is suggesting that people work in two-week cycles to beat COVID-19: On the job for four days, but then, right at the time employees might become infectious, they return to 10 days of at-home lockdown. There are other alternate day scheduling plans as well. The goal is to facilitate the advantages of working with others in person, while reducing the density of people gathered indoors, thereby lowering the rate at which the virus is transmitted. Continuing such policies after the current pandemic could also serve to prevent significant cases of the common cold as well as flu, increasing employee health and reducing sick days.
Another reason to consider allowing remote work is to encourage increased productivity. Almost a decade ago, Nicholas Bloom wrote about the experience of CTrip, a Chinese travel company, which gave call center employees the opportunity to volunteer to work from home four days a week and work one day in the office. To the surprise of upper management, productivity increased 13 percent. The ability to volunteer (rather than be forced) to work from home, coupled with the one day of office “face time,” appear to be the key factors for success.
A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals that 37 percent of jobs in the United States can be done at home. In addition, recently released results from a Gartner survey on remote work policies conducted at the end of March found that a wide majority of those 317 CFOs and business finance leaders surveyed — 74 percent — expect at least 5 percent of their on-premises workforce will become permanent work-from-home employees after the pandemic ends. Nearly a quarter of those participating in the survey said they will move at least 20 percent of their onsite employees to permanent remote positions. Such a move could help ease the pressure many CEOs are under to tightly manage costs, in the wake of the recent social lockdown.
The cost benefits of a remote workforce, along with the peace of mind offered to a nervous workforce, make the option of working from home more attractive today than ever before.