What’s the Future of Work From Home?

A woman working on a laptop on a desk

More Americans than ever are working from home. Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, roughly half of American workers are telecommuting. While COVID-19 forced us to change things quickly, there’s been a gradual shift towards more WFH over the last few years.

Working from home is not easy for everyone, and some struggle to adjust. However, many people and businesses have embraced working from home, and even when quarantines end, many people may not return to the office again. Working from home could potentially be the new normal even after the pandemic ends. Not every job can be done from home, obviously, but if you can manage your job from home, you may have to get used to doing that for a while.

How Work From Home Has Changed

All things considered, the ability to work efficiently from home is pretty new. In 2018 about 4.3 million Americans worked from home more often than not. That represents more than three percent of the workforce and a 140 percent increase in home workers since 2005.

Thanks to advancements in technology, it’s now possible for tens of millions of people to handle their jobs from home. Teleconference apps like Zoom and Skype have helped facilitate this change, as well as programs like Slack that help office workers stay connected. Considering how much work is done online, it’s no surprise more people are able to do it from home. In the last 10 years, more than 80 percent of companies have adjusted to offer some kind of workplace flexibility. 

Some firms even hire exclusively remote workers, a growing trend in business. With or without coronavirus, work from home was gradually trending upward. Now, things are seriously accelerated.

Issues With Work From Home

Working from home isn’t a possibility for everyone. Although tens of millions of Americans have made due under the circumstances of coronavirus, WFH is not a long term solution for many. For starters, plenty of jobs are impossible to do from home. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than 5 percent of workers in the following fields have access to telework:

  • Utilities
  • Construction
  • Real Estate
  • Healthcare
  • Retail
  • Transportation
  • Leisure and Hospitality

These jobs make up a significant portion of the American labor force. More Americans work in retail than any other industry, for instance. Any widespread shift to working from home would exclude or eliminate millions of jobs in these areas.

Plus, studies show that higher-income earners have more telecommuting flexibility than those making lower incomes. Only 9 percent of the poorest 25 percent of workers had the ability to work from home in 2018.

Internet connectivity can be an issue as well. About 75 percent of Americans have a broadband internet connection at home, a massive increase from the 1 percent in 2000, but still leaving many people detached from the work-from-home movement.

While working from home is convenient for those who can do it, a majority of people still can’t. However, there are still some potential benefits of working from home that make it a promising and expanding option.

The Bottom Line

When companies are able to offer flexible work during normal times, there are usually benefits for the firm and worker. Research is varied since the success of working from home changes based on the person and company, but there are indications that WFH increased productivity. There are drawbacks as well, however, such as the potential for telework to damage professional relationships and stall career development as a result.

Regardless, it seems as if work from home is here to stay for millions. Some companies may downsize office space and keep more employees home, while other workers may opt to find a remote job if work from home suits them. It’s a radical change from where the workforce was even 10 years ago, but it seems like the way of the future.