NEWARK – Technology has changed the very core of the business world. No secret there. So as things continue to evolve, could that mean working from home is the wave of the future? Answers vary, of course. And interestingly, with a caution or two.
“I think there’s definitely the possibility because the technology is there,” assessed Jennifer McDonald, president of the Licking County Chamber of Commerce. “But I can’t tell you I see it that often. There are still so many businesses that have bricks and mortar that need to staff their offices. So I don’t know it’s the wave of the future.”
“What I do see,” McDonald added, “is some of the people who are the typical work-from-home like Realtors and small business owners, I see them getting some space at NEWORK Space so they can collaborate and have a place to meet people.”
At Park National Bank, Jill Evans, vice president in human resources, has a different perspective.
“I would expect especially larger companies to offer, if they’re not now, some component to work from home or working remotely,” she said. “We have the technology and the secure, encrypted format to do that. So that’s what I would expect from any company that employs a number of people or have multiple locations.”
“So from that aspect I can’t see it going away,” Evans summed. “I can only see it growing.”
Kurt Harden, president and CEO at MedBen, agrees.
“About 20 percent of our employees work from home,” he said. “So I think it is definitely a flexible wave of the future for certain jobs that doesn’t require a team dynamic in the building.”
“But even when we have people work from home,” Harden added, “we still try to have them come in the office once a week because we find it’s good to have them come back and connect on a regular basis. It just somehow maintains that ‘team’ feel and that’s the trick to keep that going. So I think flex scheduling is the wave of the future.”
Dr. William MacDonald, the dean/director at The Ohio State University at Newark, is slightly more cautious.
“I think working from home will be more of a ripple than a wave,” MacDonald said, “and it will be a bigger ripple in some areas of the workforce than in others.”
“I also think the purpose of working from home will vary from sector to sector,” MacDonald continued. “For instance, some employees will work from home because they can fulfill all of their job duties by way of computer. People who help you with online banking, your company’s information technology, or your Amazon order are all likely to be able to virtually do all of their work from home by communicating with you over the phone, the Internet, or both.”
“In other areas,” he added. “employees will work from home sporadically, perhaps as a perk or perhaps as the result of their company’s efforts to help employees lead fulfilling lives.”
Helping employees lead fulfilling lives while working from home seems to be a concern for many. As Chamber President McDonald put it, it has the potential to isolate people in an already isolating culture.
“Along with social media, we become less and less social with less and less interaction,” she summed.
OSU’s MacDonald agreed.
“Working from home,” he said, “will not necessarily increase life satisfaction or productivity, and we have to think about the downside of working from home for long periods of time. For the employee, those downsides include, among others, a lack of social interaction, distractions from work and distractions from home life. For employers, they include communications challenges, supervisory challenges, and possibly a lonely environment for employees who must work on site.”
“Working from home might be great in some situations,” MacDonald concluded, “but I think we have to be careful about what we expect from it.”