For HR management, the Covid pandemic has definitely reshaped the way in which businesses organize themselves and how the workforce as a whole functions.
An interview between NPR and a collection of professionals from the technology industry to the digital marketing industry across the country revealed that among employees, there are mixed feelings regarding continuing with remote work or returning to the office, and employers are feeling just as mixed.
For HR management, whether or not to continue with remote work arrangements is an important question as we move away from the pandemic. There are many pros and cons to maintaining remote work arrangements which we will cover below because, at a glance, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer.
The Pros of Maintaining a Remote Workforce
Employee Morale and Health
There is no doubt that working from home has created a safer environment during the pandemic, and heading into the future, while there are still new COVID-19 strains developing which may not be protected against with current vaccines, there is still a danger to people’s health, albeit reduced compared to before. Through remote work arrangements, many employees’ mental health has benefited through having more time with family at home as well as through having more flexible schedules.
Putting employee health first and giving them the chance to have more fulfilling lives at home with their family will only boost morale and let employees know that their experience is cared for by upper management, something that they will then reflect into their work ethic.
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Removing Commuting Times
For many of us, commuting through busy city streets before and after work is a draining experience. Avoiding that early commute, in particular, allows employees to transition from their morning routine at home to the start of their work routine more seamlessly without the stress of a commute.
And because traditionally, commuting to work has been mandatory for almost the entire workforce, removing the commute as a necessary part of being employed has actually opened up employment options to many people who are unable to make daily commutes, such as people with disabilities or who live in areas with previously limited employment options. This also gives businesses a larger pool from which to select new employees.
The initial belief was that working remotely would lead to decreased productivity, however, it has actually had the opposite. Multiple studies have shown that when working from home, employees generally waste 10 minutes less each day being unproductive while also being 47% more productive with their time.
Other features on remote work management:
- Covid-19 Reopening Strategies Will Include Remote Working and Increased HR Outsourcing
- Best Practices for Helping Remote Workers Maintain Work-Life Balance
- Only 43% of Canadian employees are offered home remote working options; 61% prefer to work remotely
- Fighting Loneliness — How HR Managers can Inspire Their Remote Team and Prevent the Feeling of Isolation
The Cons of Maintaining a Remote Workforce
The Mental Strain of Working Remotely
Although remote work arrangements have had positive effects on many people’s mental health, it can also have the opposite. Some surveys have found that as many as 45% of people working from home have suffered mentally due to reduced quality of sleep and more. These employees actually thrive more when they are working at an office, and may find it difficult to “switch off” after work since their environment hasn’t changed.
Reduced Company Culture
Sometimes, having a cohesive and close team of people working together can only be done in person where real-life relationships are built and where interactions can be fun rather than being another tiresome Zoom call. Feeling like you are a part of something larger at work often provides meaning, direction, and keeps a positive atmosphere.
Without these interactions, it can be difficult for managers and business owners to grow the company culture and get coworkers really interacting with each other. Additionally, it can also make it harder for managers and coworkers to see when someone may be struggling mentally so that the right support can be put in place for them.
Making a Decision
For HR management, this is obviously more than a straightforward yes or no decision. Because different employees perform differently when working remotely, finding the answer to this question will need to balance how a certain position responds to remote work options, how employees of a given business respond to continued remote work, and more to decide which is the best option overall.
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Notes and References
 NRP, “Why Do We Have To Go Back To The Office?’: Employees Are Divided About Returning”, June 9 2021
 WeForum, “How COVID could democratize commutes”, March 8 2021
 Apollo Technical, “SURPRISING WORKING FROM HOME PRODUCTIVITY STATISTICS (2021)”, June 2 2021
 Forbes, “Mental Health And Remote Work: Survey Reveals 80% Of Workers Would Quit Their Jobs For This”, October 8 2020