The coronavirus already had a detrimental effect on the world economy, from disrupting the supply-chains in China to the crisis of airlines and cruise ship operators. Yet, it might have even more profound implications for employment habits and practices. AdWeek
Due to the growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, tech companies, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon, “strongly encouraging” their workforce to work from home. Many more companies will soon follow. This crisis poses a question of how well we can adapt to reality with thousands of people working remotely.
Since the 1970s, when “telecommuting” become a thing, there is an ongoing debate if remote workers are more or less productive than office workers.
Several recent studies suggest that remote workers are actually more productive. A survey by consulting firm TinyPulse found that 91% of employees working remotely believed that they are more productive doing so.
Despite those findings, the work-from-home model does not fit for all the employees. According to researchers from Baylor University, success in working from home largely depends on the emotional makeup of employees. Those differences create an acute managerial problem for companies amid the forced lockdown.
According to TinyPulse, workers that have no choice than work from home feel less valued and more likely to leave their job. Moreover, almost a third of remote employees have trouble establishing interpersonal relationships essential to perform their duties.
For this reason, many pioneers of the work-from-home model, such as IBM and Yahoo, reversed their policies and mandated work in designated office locations.
The current global health crisis will likely bring back the trend of remote work, whether companies are prepared or not. Nevertheless, NYU Stern professor Anat Lechner sees reasons for optimism. Lechner suggests that the epidemic fosters unprecedented management experiment.
Lechner points out that the younger demographics of the American workforce are more accustomed to social media and online collaboration tools. As a result, they can adapt faster to the new reality than employers currently project. Stern predicts that:
“The current crisis might well result in a more flexible and resilient workforce.”