Employees Work From Home As Coronavirus Spreads

Working from home may not just save money but lives.

The coronavirus—and its impact on global markets—has brought teleworking back into the spotlight. The number of employees who work from home, or remotely while using technology to communicate with their supervisors and colleagues, has been expanding. As of November 2019, the number of US teleworkers who aren’t self-employed was up more than 170% since 2005, according to Global Workplace Analytics, a US-based consulting and research firm. And the number is expected to increase significantly in coming years.

Several factors led global companies to offer employees the option to work remotely at least part of the time, and sometimes entirely. First, workers are looking for flexible work arrangements to accomodate their personal lives and improve their work-life balance. Second, new technology solutions and the greater use of corporate software have significantly improved the ease and effectiveness of teleworking. Third, the move by companies toward greater inclusion and diversity encourages the participation of people with disabilities in the workplace, and many disabled people prefer teleworking.

In addition, some research indicates that workers are more productive when teleworking rather than in traditional work environments. And the focus on the changing climate and millennials’ environmental concerns are prompting some workers to want to travel less to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, the recent coronavirus epidemic has shown executives that their workforces need to be adaptable and have teleworking options in place should a public health crisis arise, or when natural disasters such as wildfires or floods make commuting to offices impossible.

The use of teleworking has produced mixed results. Several companies, such as Bank of America and Yahoo, have introduced teleworking only to subsequently eliminate the practice.  The companies cited better collaboration and teamwork when employees interacted in person than via digital tools.

Yet, while many managers don’t trust that employees will stay focused on the job when they’re out of sight, remote workers in fact tend to be more productive, according to Global Workplace Analytics.