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W.F.H. - otherwise known as Work From Home

By Logan Simmons 

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic in early 2020, the majority of us have been made aware of remote working; an employment arrangement in which employees perform their job duties from any location, most often within the comfort of their own homes, rather than the office, warehouse, and store.

Chances are if you haven’t had the opportunity to work remotely already, you’ve at least given it a thought a time or two. Maybe you’ve come across an ad or job board, and see Company X is hiring for your exact position for the same salary if not more. You begin to ask yourself, is it too good to be true? What are the perks of working from home? What are the downsides? Would remote work be ideal for me? Can I still be efficient in completing my tasks? These are all common questions to ask yourself when deciding to jump into a WFH position. As an engineering professional that has experienced both traditional and remote work styles, I am here to provide insight on these questions and more.

Let’s start a few years back to get a real understanding on just how much remote work has impacted the job industry. Data obtained from the American Community Survey, the demographics survey program conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, revealed that in 2019, fewer than 6% of Americans were working from home. Upon the initial impact of Covid-19 in May 2020, around 35% of the American workforce reported working from home, an increase from 9 million people in 2019 to 48.7 million. Upon the decline of initial worry and the introduction of vaccines in 2021, people began slowly returning to the office. Even still, the U.S. Census Bureau determined roughly 17.9%, approximately 27.6 million people, were still working remotely in 20213. This makes you ask, what prevented people from returning to the office? And for those who returned, what were their reasons?

Following the WFH boom of 2020, many companies and industries realized the duties of many jobs could be completed at home. According to a study by Jonathan Dingel and Brent Neiman, in association with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 37% of jobs in the United States are capable of being performed entirely at home. The top 9 occupational groups likely to have remote positions include:

· Legal

· Computer and Mathematical

· Business and Financial Operations

· Management

· Architecture and Engineering

· Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media

· Life, Physical, and Social Science

· Community and Social Service

· Sales and Related

Understandably, the 9 occupations with minimal chance of remote availability are:

· Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance

· Construction and Extraction

· Educational Instruction and Library

· Healthcare Practitioners and Technical

· Healthcare Support

· Installation, Maintenance, and Repair

· Office and Administrative Support

· Production

· Personal Care and Service

Besides falling into one of the popular remote industries above, and the convenience working remotely provides, what other reasons should consider working from home?

MONEY

Let’s talk C.R.E.A.M.. Popularized by the 1990s hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan, this acronym stands for “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”, and they weren’t wrong. In a 2017 study conducted by LinkedIn, in which the site surveyed more than 14,000 professionals from 28 countries, two key discoveries were made. Not only do 70% of professionals seek to hear about salary in the first message from a recruiter, but 59% of candidates also claim salary is the leading factor contributed to feeling fulfilled in their career. If salary is an important factor to you, there’s good news. A study by Payscale in 2021 found that when data was not controlled for factors such as job title and location, employees who worked remotely earned 23.7% more than their non-remote counterparts. Even when those compensable factors were included for analysis, fully-remote employees still earned 1.9% more than their non-remote counterparts7. Moreover, Fortune claimed that in 2022, remote employees could find themselves earning an average of $3,000 more than those working in-person roles.

HAPPINESS

They say money can’t buy happiness, so is it possible to be happy in a remote role regardless of compensation? Well don’t fret, several studies have determined remote work increases employee happiness by more than 20%. According to Forbes, a Tracking Happiness survey of almost 12,500 employees across 4 continents found that not only does employee happiness increase, but that there is a significant correlation between happiness at work and overall life happiness. Regardless of age and gender, data from the respondents revealed 27% of overall life happiness is contributed to happiness at work. The same study also evaluated the correlation between commute times with employee happiness. Not surprisingly, data from the survey revealed employee happiness decreases as commute times increase. Maybe spending more time with your family or having a better work-life balance would improve your happiness. Well it keeps getting better. The American Community Survey revealed remote workers now spend 11.1% of their saved commute time on childcare, while also spending 15.5% on housework.

HEALTH

Your health is not just based on your level of activity and the foods you consume, but also the frequency at which you’re sick, how much stress you feel, and how much sleep you get. Gallup, a global analytics company, conducted a survey that revealed that those with longer work commutes are more likely to have been diagnosed with high cholesterol and obese BMIs. In addition, CoSo Cloud, the private-cloud solutions provider for Adobe Connect, released results from a study that reported up to 42% of remote

workers reported eating healthier than they normally would in the office, with 45% of the remote workers surveyed reporting they get more sleep as well. In terms of stress, a study by PGi, a global provider of collaboration software and services, revealed 82% of people in the study reported having less stress levels working remotely than in the office. If you’re still not convinced, a survey conducted by Wakefield Research revealed an estimated 69% of working Americans don’t take sick days, with approximately 62% of employees going to the office even when sick. All the more reason to work from your own home!

You may be thinking, how can I be productive working at home? Maybe your dog is barking at the neighbor’s cat or construction is blaring through your open window. Turns out, it may not matter. According to a study of 16,000 workers conducted by Stanford, remote workers were found to be 13% more productive than those working in person. Moreover, results from the Canada Life Survey showed that remote workers ranked their productivity at 7.7 out of 10 while office workers ranked their productivity at only 6. 5 out of 10. In addition, members from both the Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology and Chicago Booth School of Business launched a monthly survey of 30,000 American workers aged 20-64 beginning in May 2020. In March 2021, data from the survey revealed nearly six out of 10 workers reported being more productive from home than they expected they’d be. Moreover, the average respondent’s increase in productivity was valued around 7% higher than expected, with 40% of respondents reporting higher productivity at home during Covid-19 than when in the office prior to the pandemic.

TARGET POPULATION

So with all this evidence showing the positives of working remotely, why do some people still dislike it? Well, the answer may lie in demographics and personality types.

To begin, a study conducted by the job search site Joblist revealed that about 49% of the millennials surveyed would like to work virtually full-time. Only 27% of Generation Z respondents and even a smaller percentage of Generation X and baby boomers felt the same way. Although not a direct correlation, it can be assumed that millennials are more likely to pursue remote roles as they are considered the more tech-savvy generation. Millennials, those that were born between 1981 and 1997, were raised during the time of the modern-day technological evolution, making them more suitable to work with the technology required to work from home. In terms of education, Revelio Labs, a company that standardizes millions of publicly available employment records, revealed 55% of remote job postings require at least a Bachelor’s degree. For non-remote jobs in similar roles, only 40% of those positions required a Bachelor’s degree.

Regarding personality, Recruiter.com has published a piece investigating “What Personality Type is Best Suited to Virtual Work?” . In this article, it is suggested that extroverts are more suited to working remotely than introverts. This may come as a surprise for most, but there is actually a good reason behind it. They have found that “extroverted, curious, social types thrive more in virtual working situations because they are much more able to form the necessary connections to stave off isolation and collaborate effectively in virtual scenarios”. Moreover, they report research has shown that disorganized individuals perform more efficiently within the office, because the office provides a structured, established environment. Workers that are more organized are better apt to work from their

home because they can take the initiative to complete tasks without procedures or processes in place. In addition, if you struggle with communication or socialization, remote work may not be for you. Virtual work relies heavily on key skills that include well-written and easily comprehendible communication on a consistent basis. Next, Recruiter.com reports that the individuals that compose virtual teams are heavily interdependent on one another. Therefore, an employee looking to thrive in a remote environment must have collaborative skills on top of being self-motivated when working by themselves. Lastly, remote work is not suggested for individuals that prefer firm instruction and tight schedules. Instead, it suggests that employees that are comfortable with ambiguity, as it relies heavily “on personal initiative and independence of thought” will be successful in a WFH environment.

CONCERNS

With all the information and statistics presented in this article, it may be easy to assume you can’t go wrong working from home. However, there are several key points to keep in mind.

Even with the surge of remote work the past few years, along with numerous studies revealing the positive aspects of remote work, a large quantity of companies are still not convinced. A study conducted by Microsoft that surveyed 20,000 people in 11 countries revealed 85% of leaders say “the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive”. Moreover, the study revealed 49% of managers of remote workers “struggle to trust their employees to do their best work”. In another study conducted by Citrix, in which 900 business leaders and 1,800 employees worldwide were surveyed, 50% of the business leaders believe when given the opportunity to work “out of sight” employees do not work as hard. Due to this belief, 48% of those leaders have had monitoring software installed on their employees computers. To no surprise, 49% of the 1,800 employees reported not trusting their employer, and understandably so.

Besides trust issues, companies are also looking to use remote work to their advantage in terms of paying employees. In a paper published by The National Bureau of Economic Research, 4 in 10 employers surveyed intend to allow more employees to work out of office, and hope to use that factor to “curb future wage increases”. Ultimately, some companies are looking to pay remote workers less for the convenience of working from their own home. If you think working remotely can’t be so great, that people would be willing to take a pay cut, just wait. In 2021, GoodHire surveyed 3,500 Americans, finding that 61% of the respondents would be willing to take a pay cut in order to work remotely full-time, with 70% of the respondents willing to forfeit benefits such as health insurance and paid time off to maintain a remote working status.

Lastly, although numerous studies have shown that productivity tends to increase with remote work, it does come at a cost. A study conducted by Ergotron found that 40% of employees report working longer hours at home than when in the office. Maybe this is from less commute time or more interruptions. Or maybe employees are more willing to work longer when their comfortable, more satisfied with their environment, and less stressed. According to data obtained by the National Bureau of Economic Research, workdays for remote employees average 48.5 minutes longer.

Even with these concerns, remote jobs are more present than ever and here to stay. According to Upwork, a business networking site, it is estimated that around 22% of the U.S. workforce, approximately 36.2 million Americans, will be working remotely in 2025.

CONCLUSION

Maybe you took the time to read all the info, data and statistics above. Or maybe you skimmed right over it all. Either way, let’s keep it simple. As an employee that has personally worked in-office and remote positions related to the engineering and medical device fields, I can agree with the positive aspects of remote work assessed above. However, I ask that you please be realistic with your expectations. As with any job you will still experience some level of stress or burnout in a remote position. It also may take some time for you to get accustomed to remote work and the level of communication and technology required to be successful at completing your duties. However, if you meet the criteria above, including but not limited to occupation, age, education, and personality, it may be worth looking into. You may just open up a brand-new world right from your very own home!

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