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Accelerating the WFH trend

| By Dorothy Lozowski

The necessity to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust many into working from home (WFH) and setting up workplaces in dining rooms, living rooms, basements or anywhere they could. The new at-home workforce quickly became familiar with video-conferencing and document-sharing software that they may never have used before. Even for those who were already working from home, this time is different. Family members are now at home and everyone is working, studying and socializing in sometimes close living quarters. While the trend before the pandemic was toward an increase in working from home, the current situation has forced an extraordinary change in our work situation, and one that is expected to have lasting effects.


The challenges

While WFH is often sought-after by employees who want a better work-life balance, it is not preferred by everyone, and it presents challenges. These are exacerbated by the current pandemic, during which even seemingly simple tasks, like getting groceries, can be difficult.

According to Bloomberg 1, a major VPN (virtual private network) provider reported that during the pandemic, workers in the U.S. used a business VPN an average of three hours more per day than usual — indicating a longer-than-normal workday. Rather than the anticipated gain in free time due to the lack of commuting, workers can actually feel more stress and overworked with the lines between work and personal time blurred. Ironically, while one of the benefits of WFH is seen to be better work-life balance, one of the perhaps most difficult aspects of WFH is the propensity toward a lack of boundaries between work and personal time. And during this pandemic, many feel more pressure at work to do more, as companies face economic stresses. In a recent poll by Eagle Hill Consulting 2, 45% of U.S. employees said they were experiencing burnout, with one in four attributing it to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top reasons for burnout cited were workload (45%) and juggling professional and personal lives (35%). But still, those working from home feel very fortunate to have jobs as unemployment rates skyrocket.


Post the COVID-19 crisis

While working from home is far from ideal during this time of crisis, both employees and employers are seeing benefits that will accelerate the trend after the COVID-19 crisis. Last month, Global Workplace Analytics reported findings from a global survey 3 of 2,600 employees taken during the pandemic. Only 6% said they would not want to work from home in the future and 77% said they do want to continue to work from home, at least part-time, after the pandemic.

Companies that were slow to allow employees to WFH, are now witnessing how technology and a willing workforce can make this a viable longterm option. In a survey of 867 global CFOs taken last month, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) 4 found that about half said they are considering making remote working a permanent option where feasible. And they are looking at ways of accelerating automation and other new ways of working. ■

Dorothy Lozowski

Dorothy Lozowski, Editorial Director

1. Three Hours Longer, the Pandemic Workday Has Obliterated Work-Life Balance, Bloomberg Business, April 23, 2020


3. Global Work-From-Home Experience Survey