For months now, the lives of many Americans – and around the world – have changed drastically. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) didn’t just change the way people socialize but it also changed the way most work. Many people who are now working remotely from home have gotten used to the idea that working in —pajamas and not being stuck in traffic has its benefits.
According to a survey conducted by WalletHub, 60 percent of Americans think that due to the pandemic and the current situation, work has changed for the better. But some experts have doubts.
“I agree that COVID-19 has changed the way we work, but I do not think for the better. It has changed the way everyone works, but I have yet to see the overall increase in the economy’s productivity. We are seeing record high unemployment of 14.7 percent with more than 43 million unemployment claims, which is signaling there is some volatility in the market,” Associate Professor of Business Dr. Brandon Ware of Biola University, told WalletHub. “While we typically do a best and worst-case scenario, I don’t think too many people use the pandemic (COVID-19) as a variable in their economic forecasting scenario. Lastly, I truly believe this sentiment is the new normal and more businesses will pay more attention to world news and how they can adjust to that situation, should that affect them.”
Pre-pandemic, when life was “the old normal,” 25 percent of Americans worked from home at some point, and only 14.5 percent worked from home as their main location, the survey found out.
Today, while 50 percent of working parents believe that working from home, while also running the household and home-schooling, challenge their productivity workwise, a third of Americans believe that businesses should fire employees who reject the idea of returning to work at the office.
Also, about a third of Americans think that the future of offices will be the home office.
“Nothing is forever. I have read that only about 37 percent of workers can work from home. Are these the people who think offices are a thing of the past?” Professor of Business and Economics, Dr. Alfred Lerner of the University of Delaware, said in regards to the WalletHub survey. “The other two-thirds must still work at their employer’s location. Certainly, educators will be expected to return to their schools. My doctor conducted a video visit, but I know medical professionals will return to their offices. Some working from home may be feasible, but certainly, many workers now at home will return to offices.”
To break it down even further, 27 percent of Americans don’t miss the office at all, and most —53 percent—argue that it’s the employer’s responsibility if employees get sick, when they decide to return to office life. Also, 41 percent of Americans share the opinion that employees should get paid more when they return to work at the office.
What is surprising, is that a whopping 61 percent of Americans are under the impression that their co-workers are less productive working from home than being in the office.
Workers often go through a transition phase to get used to working from home, and it’s important that the home office is designed to give a working atmosphere, away from the distraction of a running TV, or clutter. But not everyone has the luxury to create a corner in their house or apartment to turn into a home office.
Nevertheless, it looks like for many this will be the future, although some businesses reopened and continue to work in “the new normal” with wearing masks and sitting 6 feet away from co-workers. Many employees are not comfortable with the idea of returning to office space, since it’s now proven that COVID-19 spreads quicker indoor and lingers around longer than in outdoor areas.
According to Lerner, there are benefits as well as costs working from home. For many employees, the benefits include lower cost for travel, which contributes to better air quality; lower costs on business attire; and fewer food expenses. And of course, the freedom of creating your own schedule, which involves more free time.
For businesses, it could lower the costs for office space, and the fewer commuters could mean fewer costs for the government in replacing infrastructure.
However, Lerner said the downside includes some hidden costs, such as upgrading to high-speed internet, as well as the challenge of being a working-from-home-parent during the summer recess. And the fear of many businesses is the productivity of employees decreasing from pre-pandemic status.
Depending on state regulations and safety, employers or businesses have the right to decide if it’s safe for employees to return to work, or if working from home is an option to get the virus under control.
In California, the spike in new COVID-19 related cases is extremely high, after Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed for counties to enter phase three in reopening. Although this is alarming for hospitality and entertainment establishments, many offices downtown also remain closed, doctor’s offices were an exception.