Working from Home (Remotely) Today
The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11. Since then, the U.S. and world economy has been thrown into a vast work-from-home experiment that we’re still getting used to.
The results have been decidedly mixed. Analysts note the tech that’s enabling so many people to work from home has been a godsend. Without it, the global economy would’ve likely suffered even more due to stay-at-home orders that shut down businesses, or more workers would’ve been forced into offices and workplaces despite the dangers of coronavirus.
Some employees love working from home, and they hope their companies continue the trend after the pandemic passes. Other employees, mostly those with school-aged children, say the increase in remote work has been incredibly stressful, as they juggle dozens of priorities.
No one knows for sure what the workplace will look like after the pandemic. Some experts predict working remotely may become the new normal. Others say many employees miss personal interactions in offices, and they’ll be eager to get back to the real (and not virtual) watercooler.
Empire Resume has delved into what it’s like to work remotely today during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll tell you the startling statistics behind the sharp rise in remote work, the pros and cons behind the new arrangement, and how to make the best out of working from home while the pandemic rages on.
COVID-19’s Impact on Remote Work
Remote work was already on the rise before the novel coronavirus upended economic life in March. A FlexJobs survey found that between 2005 and 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work in the U.S.
The increase in remote work has been attributed to several factors. For one, better technology like powerful mobile phones and super-fast internet connections have improved remote work capabilities.
Before the pandemic, many employees saw working from home as a prized benefit. One Gallup study conducted before the pandemic revealed that 37% of workers would change jobs to one that allowed them to work remotely at least part of the time.
However, no one was ready for the massive shift in remote work the pandemic created. Before the pandemic, 39% of employers told PwC in a survey they expected most of their employees to work remotely at least one day a week. During the pandemic, that number skyrocketed to 77%. About 55% of employers said in the same survey they expect most employees to work from home at least one day a week after the pandemic passes.
Benefits of Remote Work Shift
The shift to remote work due to coronavirus was swift and far-reaching. But has it been a positive development? While employers and workers note there are some drawbacks, there have been many positive aspects, too.
Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom has gone as far as to say the U.S. is now in a “work-from-home economy.” Bloom notes that 42% of the U.S. workforce is working remotely full-time right now, 33% of the labor force isn’t working at all, and the remaining 26% are “essential” workers. So, by the numbers, most American employees are currently working remotely.
Remote work proved invaluable in the early stages of the pandemic when states had strict lockdown orders, Bloom says. Without remote working capabilities, the economic devastation would’ve been much worse, and more people would’ve been forced into offices and, subsequently, exposed to COVID-19.
Some workers and companies have been touting the benefits of remote work during the pandemic. Benefits include skipping long commutes, saving money on transportation, and spending more time with family.
About 83% of employees told PwC in a survey they’d like to work remotely at least one day a week after the pandemic. About 32% expressed desired to work full-time from home after the pandemic is over.
Bosses and executives in the same PwC survey were on the same page with employees. Seventy-three percent of executives said the shift to remote work during the pandemic has been a success.
People have noted working remotely has taken some pressure off work interactions. Because of so many Zoom calls, employees get more personal insights into their co-worker’s lives, as children and pets show up on camera.
“Business casual” dress codes have become even more casual due to remote work arrangements. Some companies have had fun by creating “Pajama Mondays,” or something along those lines.
All this adds up to the idea of “bringing your authentic self” to work. Many businesspeople have clamored for that in recent years, and the shift to remote work has accelerated the trend.
Increased Stress and Burnout
The increase in remote work during the pandemic has come with some big negatives, though. One drawback has the power to affect the U.S. on a societal level: an increase in inequality.
One survey found that only 51% of American workers said they can work from home full-time. The people that have this ability are already further up on the economic scale. The rest of the U.S. workforce can’t work from home because they have poor internet connections or no internet.
The people who can’t work from home are getting left behind economically during this massive shift to remote work. More prosperous workers are gaining new skills and advancing, which leads to even bigger disparities in a U.S. economy where inequality is already a significant problem.
Another drawback is the potential for burnout. Many employees aren’t working from home by choice. Instead, companies and workers are simply trying to survive during this extraordinary time and working remotely is one of the only possible ways they can do so.
Because of this, there has been tremendous pressure on some employees working from home, leading to increased stress and burnout. Sixty-nine percent of employees working from home told Monster in a July survey that they’re experiencing burnout symptoms. That’s a 20% increase from the same survey taken in early May when the pandemic was just starting.
Most workers (59%) told Monster they’re taking less time off than they normally would, and 42% of those working from home said they’re not planning on taking any time off to destress. There are many reasons why this is the case, and a big one is the recession and economic uncertainty many employees and their companies face.
Some workers told CNBC they’re anxious they may be targeted by layoffs, as the economy and companies continue to struggle. This has led to many people working extremely hard, hoping that if they overachieve and get everything done, their companies won’t let them go.
Another factor leading to burnout is the lack of childcare options during the pandemic. Many working people had to juggle full-time jobs and full-time parenting duties during the spring and summer because schools and camps were closed. It’s uncertain if schools will remain open this fall, which could create the problematic scenario for working parents all over again.
Staying Healthy When Working from Home
Like it or not, the pandemic will likely cause this massive amount of remote work to continue until at least next year.
Only 27% of workplaces in the 20 largest U.S. metro areas plan to reopen by the end of September, according to a survey the Conference Board did of prominent executives. In addition, about 35% of the executives surveyed still have no timeline for when they plan to reopen their offices.
With remote work here to stay, for now, it’s essential to get the best out of it. The Center for Workplace Mental Health provides several helpful tips on preventing burnout and maintaining optimal mental health during this difficult time.
First and foremost, the Center for Workplace Mental Health recommends keeping a regular schedule when working from home. That includes taking regular and periodic breaks from work and screen time to recharge and get outside.
Other tips include:
- Get regular exercise. Your gym may be closed because of the pandemic, but there are other ways to exercise. Getting exercise is excellent for mental health, too. Try yoga or stretching at home or walks in your neighborhood.
- Create boundaries. Working from home during this challenging time can lead to an “always-on” schedule. Try to avoid this, if possible. Working unusual hours and working longer because you’re at home will wear you down over the long run.
- Limit news consumption. Unfortunately, most of the news now is very negative and upsetting. Watching and reading the news too much, especially on social media, can create tremendous anxiety. Try to stay informed by sticking to a few trusted sources and try not to check too often.
What’s the Future of Remote Work?
Working remotely was already on the rise before the pandemic. COVID-19 created a situation where working from home was no longer a choice for people and businesses – it was about economic survival.
It’s unclear what the workplace will look like after COVID-19. About 39% of executives surveyed by the Conference Board plan to reopen their offices with improved safety features in the first quarter of 2021. Surprisingly, only 5% of these executives are basing their plans on the availability of a vaccine.
Some big tech companies have signaled a shift to increased remote work in the future. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said about 50% of his employees will likely be working remotely in the next five to 10 years. A few months ago, Twitter also announced some employees can continue working from home full-time after the pandemic if they so choose.
But some experts say it’d be a mistake to claim the office is dead. About half of the executives that PwC surveyed said they expect they’ll need an increase in office space three years from now. Amazon is one example of a big corporation that’s betting on the return of office work. The tech giant recently announced it plans to expand its office footprint by 900,000 square feet across six U.S. cities.
If you’re looking for a full-time remote job, now’s a great time to set your sights on one. The future of the workplace is uncertain, but it seems likely remote work opportunities will continue to increase after the pandemic.
Empire Resume can help you land a remote job by crafting you a top-notch resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Contact us today at 801-690-4085 or firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for a free resume review.
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Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.