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Work from Home is Reshaping the Modern Office

Work from Home is Reshaping the Modern Office

01 March 2021

While we tend to look at last year’s onset of COVID-19 in purely negative terms (because, honestly, the downsides of the pandemic seem to have no floor), there have been a handful of silver linings. That’s been especially true for office workers and the companies that employ them, as the rapid expansion of work-from-home has brought several unexpected benefits for both. The traditional 9-to-5 office grind is being reshaped around us and, frankly, it’s difficult to imagine going back.

Telecommuting Benefits Employers

Many analyses of the benefits of work from home are focused on the benefits for employees (which we’ll look at next), but employers are also seeing some massive upsides to taking their workforces remote. The most obvious, of course, are the savings that come from eschewing a brick-and-mortar office space—rent, liability and structural insurance policies, utilities, and cleaning services and/or equipment can all be immediately eliminated from the expense column. Even if an employer must purchase specialized equipment or high-end workstations for employees to use at home, the savings on physical space should more than offset those upfront costs. Then there are the ancillary expenditures like travel and lodging and dinners with clients, all of which can be reduced to nearly nothing through remote work. In short, the pandemic has proven that most “office work” doesn’t really require the office component (from a task and productivity standpoint, that is), at least in a traditional sense.

Work from home also gives employers access to a much deeper pool of talent because physical location ceases to be a concern. As major industries decentralize—tech companies moving out of Silicon Valley, publishers moving out of (or expanding beyond) New York City, and so on—so too do their workforces. Employers operating remotely can have access to the best talent in the world, not just a specific city or region. This also goes for attractive salaries; with less overhead spent on physical office space, an employer can afford to pay the higher salaries that rock-star employees command. And employers who already operate with that mindset will, at the very least, stand to save a significant amount of money on relocations.

Telecommuting Benefits Employees

Of course, remote work isn’t solely for the benefit of businesses. Employees enjoy some obvious upsides, like the lack of a morning and evening commute, but also some that are less immediately apparent. For instance, without logging miles on their cars twice daily, people pay less in fuel and maintenance. The relationship between those boons is obvious, as is the correlation between remote work and improved employee mood. But some of the benefits of the evolution in office culture are less apparent.

Take the availability of jobs as an example. As discussed in the last section, remote work is decoupling an increasing number of jobs from geographic location. While this benefits employers, it also works in the favors of employees; a talented programmer living in the Midwest can enjoy the lower costs typical of that region while working for (and earning a salary commensurate with) a large company in Silicon Valley or Baltimore. And where telecommuting expands the talent pool available to employers, it also necessarily makes salaries more competitive for the people who ultimately fill those positions. In short, employees can earn higher wages and keep their costs of living low thanks to remote work.

It’s clear that remote work has fundamentally reshaped office culture, and it’s hard to imagine that employers or employees will be eager to forfeit those changes even when a return to the previous “normal” is possible. Too much has changed for the better, at least in most cases, to go back to the pre-pandemic model. But that’s not a bad thing. The most successful among us have always been those who are quick to embrace change, and this shift is no different.

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