Working from Home During Covid-19 and Beyond
If you are working as an Independent Contractor or as a Business Owner, decisions must be made whether to operate from home, and how to effectively do so. If you are an employee of a company, you may or may not have a choice. Chances are high and growing that working from home is going to be a greater probability for the future.
Covid isolation and social distancing has caused many companies to make immediate decisions to allow as many employees as possible to work from home. Of course, if you work in retail, or a restaurant, or many other businesses that require a physical location where customers can come and obtain your products, that is not, and will not be a consideration for now or the future. Even if you own the store, restaurant, etc., you will still need to provide a place that customers can visit, although you may be able to offer a delivery option.
Although businesses were forced to rethink many elements of their business model, that does not mean that the resulting decisions will go away at some point in the future. A study was done where it was determined that for every employee a company allows to work from home for half of a full-time work week, the company saves an estimated $11,000 per year. For larger companies, the savings could create a massive impact on the bottom line. And if that remote working arrangement also benefits the employees in a positive way, that creates a win/win opportunity.
For the remainder of this article, we would like to look at some of the pros and cons to working from home (where possible) and the primary considerations to make this a workable long-term solution.
- Flexibility Benefits—For those who can work from home, there will be an instant savings of commuting costs and time, shortening the number of hours dedicated to work each week. There is often flexibility of schedule that is unavailable when reporting to an office. There are some issues that can affect the benefits of flexibility, such as a tendency to work all hours of the day, answer phone calls outside of work hours, and to sacrifice time with family or other important things because the accessibility of work. On the opposite side, it can be easier to be distracted by home projects or issues. A careful balance must be maintained to become highly productive, but not become a workaholic.
- Home Office Setup—Many people who were required by their companies to shift to remote work were not prepared to make the necessary modifications to their home environment, resulting in less than conducive office accommodations. A home office requires efficiency and separation from distractions. This is also true in order to take tax deductions for home office. Make sure that you have an effective office setup in your home rather than trying to work from the dining room table.
- Equipment and Communication—There is a sacrifice that is made in working from home, regarding the convenience of communication with the person at the next desk. Meetings with one or more other people in your business or department require planning, and virtual capability through online services. Fortunately, these online services are relatively inexpensive, and can be set up to include meetings with peers, teams, and clients as needed. Other equipment is also necessary, such as computers, company telephone, printers, etc. If you are an employee, your company should provide these items, if you are an independent contractor, or a business owner, an investment in proper equipment will be required. This should be business equipment, rather than “sharing” equipment between your company and your personal usage.
- Data Security—One of the major issues with having remote employees is data security. A company has a need to protect sensitive data, and a fiduciary responsibility to customers and clients to protect their sensitive data as well. This includes customer accounts, credit cards, and other information. While some businesses require extremely high security that prevents company agents from working remotely, more and more systems are becoming available that will allow an employee to work from another location, and still access company data in encrypted forms that are unsusceptible to hacking.
- Keeping Focus—As mentioned above, working at home automatically comes with distractions, and a few of these are unavoidable, but most are not. Covid has given an opportunity to study focus and productivity. One study of 800 businesses showed that 94% of the participants demonstrated steady or increased productivity for their at-home participants. It appears, then, that the focus issue has not generally had an adverse effect on productivity.
- Workplace Cohesiveness—When working “shoulder to shoulder” with other business associates, there is a comradery that develops, and this can suffer due to obstacles to communication. In work from home situations, companies must go to extra efforts to reestablish this connection and feeling of being a team. Extra weekly meetings with a very positive tone and opportunity for interaction between team members are essential, and any small opportunities for socializing between associates, and possibly group recreation go a long way toward keeping the work bonds strong, and the feelings of loyalty and comradery tight.
While we all look forward to an end to the social distancing policies, and some companies are bringing their employees back into the office, there is very little question that we are moving to a new normal in terms of business practices and remote agents and home offices will become a greater and greater part of the future. The items we have listed above are included to draw your attention to their existence and importance. We encourage you to take the above list, record your thoughts and plans on optimizing work from home as a part of your business, and work productivity. Technology exists to make our lives better, and there is no dog that is too old to learn new tricks when it comes to how to work more effectively under a new set of world conditions. We wish you good health, great joy, and increased productivity in all aspects of your life.