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How working from home has shifted the job landscape

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

As the COVID-19 pandemic made its spread, so too did the global, economic phenomena of shifting all (“non-essential”) workers to entirely remote, work-from-home setups. 

This included household industry names such as Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon in the United States; and Vodafone, Cisco, and Clayton Utz in Australia. Such transitions are still currently in place in an effort to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus cases, with many forced to adopt such arrangements for the first time. 

The movement has caused much disruption on both the local and global job landscape, with changes to stay for the foreseeable future. Below, SkillsTalk discuss the impact of the current “work-from-home” transition, and its potential effects on our economy’s future.

How working from home has impacted the job landscape

The shift to teleworking has been an advantage for some – while a dire challenge for others. 

Traditional businesses (i.e. those in retail, manufacturing, logistics, etc.) have found themselves struggling with these current economic changes; with many pressed to adopt creative, digital measures. Brick-and-mortar stores such as the beauty brand, Mecca, for example – have been forced to temporarily close their doors, though the company has instead launched virtual services and beauty consultations on their website as effective alternatives. 

With the current prohibition on public gatherings, the events industry has shifted their budgets towards creating virtual events and digital content. Musicians are now live-streaming their concerts to avid listeners in quarantine, with tech conferences making their move to the cyberspace. 

Tech companies are among those best-equipped to work from home, with much of their tasks already delegated to the online space. Businesses in the finance and property services are also facing less disruption, with 49% of its workers reported to have done at least some teleworking in the past.

Thankfully, our wide selection of online work tools – and the free resources (i.e. mobile data and internet bandwidth) now being distributed – have done well in aiding companies throughout this transition. Microsoft has made its cloud-based “suite” of productivity tools free for small businesses, for example; and the video-conferencing platform, Zoom, has lifted their restrictions on their “free tier” limit of 40-minute video calls. 

Regardless of how familiar businesses are with the setup, plenty are starting to see financial, productivity, and environmental benefits. In fact, some predict that our current landscape could permanently shift working arrangements, as employees may start to question their need to attend a physical office. 

The benefits of working from home

woman freelancer working from home

Past research has always highlighted the multiple benefits of working from home – namely, its ability to increase productivity and performance quality among workers. 

Prior to COVID-19, two-thirds of Australian employers were already providing flexible, remote work arrangements. McCrindle research showed that such arrangements were likely to reduce employee turnover, with most workers willing to take a pay cut for work-from-home options

According to a 2019 survey by Indeed, companies saw improved worker morale, reduced absenteeism, and high operational cost savings due to their teleworking policies – on top of better work performance among employees. In fact, one study revealed up to a 13% boost in performance among those working from home. 

Many attribute this to a decrease in workplace distractions, and thus, a greater ability to focus on one’s work. Working from home also provides one with greater autonomy over their tasks, schedule, and how they manage their workload; helping them achieve greater balance between professional and personal responsibilities

Employees also save on long commute hours (and high travel costs) – which presents additional benefits for the environment. In a recent survey of 125 office workers in Australia, 77% felt that working from home helped them reduce their carbon footprint.

The ability to jump straight into work has further offered a boost in morale for those who normally invest in hours of travel. 

In an interview for The New Daily, Jake – an employee for the software development company, Appello – noted how his mornings were particularly more productive, stating that “[he} can get out of bed and go to [his] desk in [his] house and that’s one minute’s commute versus one hour.” 

The cons of working from home

Of course, the arrangement does have its downsides.

Through a technical lens, the current upsurge in remote work and virtual services has caused significant strain on multiple telecommunication networks – including NBN, Netflix, Stan, and YouTube. Not only are people turning to their home broadband networks to continue about their business tasks – most now rely on online games and streaming services to entertain themselves while in isolation

Late March found that one in three Australians were facing frequent streaming dropouts as the demand for Internet increased, with NBN pressed to provide faster services at cheaper prices. Telecommunication companies were encouraged to purchase more capacity while streaming services were forced to temporarily cut their video quality. 

Then there’s the issue of security. On top of scam texts and e-mails with the false premise of offering more pandemic-related information; cybercriminals and other malicious actors have taken advantage of the current work-from-home landscape, targeting those with weaker security tools and defences while working remotely. 

While teleworking has provided workers with greater control over their schedules, many have also found it difficult to “switch off” at the end of the day. Some telecommuters are found to often work longer hours, as the boundaries between home and work life begin to blur. 

Finally, working from home has been linked to high rates of loneliness when isolation is left unchecked. With its lack of face-to-face interactions and knowledge sharing, remote working has also shown to have some negative effects on team cohesion.  

According to a tech employee whose company recently made the shift to remote work: “…there comes a point where even an introvert would like to see another human.” 

What will the future hold? 

young man happily working from home

Despite these downsides, experts insist that working from home will likely be more “normalised” than ever. 

Its positive impacts are simply greater than the negatives. Diane Mulcahy, careers contributor at Forbes, emphasises the results of more productive, efficient, and satisfied workers when given these flexible arrangements; with the potential for healthier corporate cultures that focus more on merit than politics. Of course, the lower real estate and facility costs are also hard to ignore. 

The looming threat of security issues have spurred frequent online discussion in improving one’s home-based cybersecurity; educating others on remote working as safely as possible. 

While loneliness plays a major role in discussing the drawbacks of teleworking – the issue has been frequently addressed in the past, with many freelancers and telecommuters opting for co-working spaces or optimising online tools to alleviate social isolation. There’s also the option of allowing various teams to work remotely on different days.

Director at the Centre for Future Work (of The Australia Institute), Jim Stanford, predicts that this uptick in remote work will soon become permanent. In an article for 7 News, he encourages policymakers to prioritise the safety needs and fairness of these work-from-home arrangements

While the arrangement is certainly not applicable for all businesses – such as those working in retail or in the health sector – the current work-from-home revolution has undoubtedly shone light on remote work as a viable, effective business strategy, crisis or none. 

Grow your skills while working from home!

With most of us in self-isolation, why not take the time to learn a new skill or two? 

Upskilled offers over 80 nationally-recognised qualifications across multiple thriving industries – from IT, to marketing, to community services – and all delivered from the comfort of your own home. With its 100% online platform, individuals can build their current skillsets while tending to other personal schedules or work commitments. 

Upgrade your skills from anywhere, and enquire with Upskilled’s education consultants on a course today.
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