The pandemic has forced a conversation about what is important. Not just what is, but what should be at the core of each of our lives that gives meaning, purpose and that will ultimately sustain us as a society. The conversation is equal parts: health, safety, family, livelihood, respect and the importance of looking out for one another in ways that perhaps we’ve forgotten.
Professor, author, lecturer and podcast host Brené Brown PhD, LMSW recently said “We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding and lack. We should not long to return my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”
But what does a change mean more practically?
For better or worse, right now it is the economy, the markets and the organizations therein that provide the mechanical framework for society’s core values. In order for organizations and businesses to acknowledge the values of society, e.g., health and safety, it needs to acknowledge the danger that poses just by its normal operation.
To that end, more employers are embracing allowing their employees to work from home. Despite the abrupt shift to this “new normal,” some companies have seen productivity remain high and have decided to explore the “work from home” option beyond the stay-at-home and social distancing orders. Case and point, Twitter has recently announced that employees may work from home on a permanent basis. And Americans are responding mostly positively to the change.
In a recent survey conducted by getAbstract, 42.67% of respondents said that they would prefer to work from home more often “after the threat of Covid-19 has passed, and schools, offices and other institutions have re-opened.” Only 12.37% of respondents wanted to work in an office more of the time, while 35% wished to maintain their former schedule. When respondents were asked why they would prefer to work remotely, the number one reason (55%) was that they didn’t have to commute, while 48% said that “a more flexible schedule” was the reason.
What are some of the more granular benefits of working from home?
Tricia Mueller, founder of Groundwork Strategies, lists: “A comfy home office with great sunlight, the ability to be near my daughter and help educate her, a high level of productivity, I can eat well and easily incorporate meditation and exercise into my day.”
Michelle McCormick, Groundwork Strategies founding partner, also cited high productivity as an advantage along with the stress relief she receives from being able to work near her pets. “I feel even more connected to my business partner,” says Michelle, “We’re going through something really difficult together and it has strengthened our communication even more.”
And the cons?
“A high level of productivity leads to long days and utter exhaustion,” says Tricia, “Multi-tasking is now over-tasking.” Michelle added, “Because you’re working from home it’s easy to do one more thing while you’re sitting on the couch with your laptop. Those things add up quickly so drawing availability boundaries is necessary.”
American work culture could be in the midst of a sea change.
For many, working from home is proving to be better for their mental and physical health, and that’s not to mention the positive impact on the environment. While there is a lack of social interaction and creative collaboration that can only come with in-person meetings, it may be too late to put the “work from home” genie back in the bottle, which begs the question “Is the workplace coming back?” or better still, “should we go back to the workplace?”