Up until now, we have taken for granted the simple things in life like commuting to work, meetings, and business travel, all of which have seemed necessary for us to be able to carry out our jobs. Social distancing is now in place in a large number of countries and lockdowns are also in place in many. This has caused millions of workers to adapt to telework for at least the near future.
All over the world governments have released a new set of guidelines allowing for more freedom with telework and asked companies to maximize the flexibility of telework. Private companies are doing the same, encouraging their employees to work from home.
But is the digital world ready for such a change? Technologies such as remote desktops and video conferencing are facing a huge amount of new traffic since the coronavirus began. For millions to be able to work from home successfully, we need to make sure that the technology is available. Aside from the technology, we start to ask ourselves if whether there is any loss of value when we aren’t working under the same location.
Telework Before COVID-19
Studies carried out in 2018 showed that a quarter of U.S workers spent some hours working from home each day. The studies also showed that telework was more practiced by those with advanced degrees but certainly not limited to employees with a degree. It has also greatly helped combat ‘brain drain’ in rural areas and it’s the densest metro areas that have the highest rates of telecommuting.
Improving Locations Due to Telework
Some workers, particularly those in the information-sector, have often turned away from telework because of their need for collaboration, interpersonal relationships, and trust. These knowledge-based jobs are beginning to cluster more densely in urban areas and the areas of work are becoming more attractive. That being said, as the coronavirus continues to spread, more and more employees are starting to appreciate the benefits of working from home.
Telework promotes other benefits too. Traffic can often cause employees to arrive late and stressed, which will have a negative impact on productivity. Once you start finding employees outside of your local area, you notice that you can employ highly skilled labor without increasing costs. Bringing on more skilled workers to your team will benefit your current employees too. Employers can also reduce their outgoings by utilizing less office space and even energy consumption.
There are some who believe telework can only benefit white-collar workers but if you look at the bigger picture, everyone can reap the advantages. With fewer people commuting to work, traffic is reduced for those who have to telecommute.
Increasing the Access to Telework for Everyone
Drastic structural changes will have to be made in order for people to be able to work from home. It is a common belief that once the coronavirus disappears companies will continue to encourage telework because of the numerous advantages. Currently, almost 10% of adults of working age don’t have broadband, as stated by the American Community Survey data. Of those people who do not have broadband, approximately 25% said broadband wasn’t available where they lived, or the service wasn’t fast enough. If we are to continue teleworking as we are now, broadband can no longer be seen as a luxury good but more of a necessity.
Look at how online shopping has changed our consumer habits. While we buy more online today than ever before, it hasn’t eliminated the need for physical shops. Telework is the same, it will greatly change the manner in which we work but it won’t completely replace the social interaction we require at work. COVID-19 has shown us that telework is valuable to millions and that in terms of technology, even if some companies are not there yet, they can see a promising future.