“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – Rahm Emanuel
As we approach the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and life slowly returns to normal, we should pause and review what we have learned in the past 15 or more months. Some people say that they will continue wearing masks indoors because they didn’t get a cold or the flu last winter. Others intend to spend their vacations closer to home than they have in the past. Many have grown to enjoy the opportunity to work from home and would like to continue to do so.
Employers can now seize opportunities to make workplace changes that will benefit both them and their employees while helping to reduce the negative community impacts of daily commutes to workplaces.
Of course, not every job is suitable for remote work. However, we learned during the pandemic that people can and will do more at home than we might have previously believed.
Employers and Employees Benefit
There are benefits to both the employer and the employee when people can work from home. Let’s take a look at some of them.
By maximizing the amount of work done remotely, employers can reduce substantial office space and equipment costs. Some companies provide workstations to be shared by people when they do come into the office. Shared space efficiently accommodates situations where there is a need to come to the workplace at times, but there is no need to be there all the time.
Many employees are happier working from home, as they can strike a better work/life balance and recover the significant time and money spent on commuting. In some cases, working from home also often allows employees flexibility in their work schedules. A happy workforce improves recruitment and retention by providing a benefit to the employee at a reduced cost to the employer.
Employees save commute time. If someone commutes 45 minutes to and from work each day, about 375 hours a year is returned to the employee if they can work from home. That is the equivalent of 10 work weeks spent at home rather than in traffic!
Of course, employees also save money on commuting and parking when they work from home. And for many, there is associated flexibility in scheduling that further improves their work-life balance.
Benefits to the Community and Environment
The benefits of remote work extend beyond the home and the workplace. Each day, there are significant environmental impacts from emissions and fossil fuel consumption from commuters travelling back and forth to work. There is also an enormous burden on infrastructure as roads and transit systems need to be built and maintained to get people from home to the workplace. Reducing unnecessary commuting reduces taxes and provides a cleaner environment, making the community a more attractive place to live.
Some Points to Consider
Employers who wish to reap the benefits of a remote work model should consult with employees and develop a plan that works for everyone. It is vital to develop clear policies, so everyone understands expectations. While policies are necessary at a high level to ensure consistency, there may also be a need to accommodate varied circumstances for individuals.
First, some employees may not wish to work from home and prefer to come into the workplace. It is best to consult with employees to determine an arrangement that works best for them and the employer.
Also, it is imperative to get supervisors and other management personnel on board. Supervisors will need to be comfortable with not being able to see members of their staff each day. The remote work model requires different skills in managing and evaluating the work of employees. Employers may need to invest in training to support these managers in the new remote working paradigm.
Finally, employers should continue to be flexible and evaluate the situation in a continuous improvement manner. Some people may thrive when they are working remotely, but others may not. Some may experience changes at home that impact their ability to work remotely. It is essential to ask remote workers how they are doing and work with them to make sure the situation benefits both them and the employer.
In summary, sometimes disruption provides opportunities, and we have certainly seen a lot of disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers and employees would be wise to work together to see if they can change the work model and take advantage of what they have learned about remote work during the pandemic. Don’t let a serious crisis go to waste.
President, Beyond Attitude Consulting Inc.
CRAZ Engagement Committee Member
Editor’s note: Ken Donnelly is a consultant, specializing in Behavior Change, Community Engagement, Public Policy, and Strategic Planning across many topics, especially sustainability. Beyond Attitude Consulting Inc., Ken worked with CRAZ to create Commuter Connect.