The Next Normal: Will the move to remote work become permanent?

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More and more companies are planning on moving work online permanently for some of their employees. (Photo illustration via pexels.com)

Editor’s note: This story is a part of a series that explores the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and how things have changed on and off campus

The work-from-home method so many businesses and workers have grown used to during the pandemic may be around to stay.

Jack Dorsey announced in early May that his two companies, Twitter and Square, will allow employees to work from home indefinitely after the pandemic. Since then a lot of businesses have been looking at the new possibilities of remote work, including Facebook and Tesla.

Even the BYU library is considering which, if any, jobs can be done remotely after the pandemic is over, according to Roger Layton, the library’s communications manager. Layton said he suspects, however, that most employees will return to campus when the library becomes fully operational.

Jason Alleger is a consumer insight specialist for Traeger Grills and a BYU business professor. He said he believes that coming out of the pandemic, the world of business and employment is never going to be the same.

“You’re going to have a lot more people working from home than you ever have in the history of the world,” Alleger said.

Alleger said he thinks this could be a good thing for company productivity. One study found that people working from home were 13% more productive than people who work in an office. Alleger said that he’s noticed the difference in himself during this time. Alleger said he’s spent a lot more hours working each day than he did before coronavirus.

“I feel like during this time everybody works extra hard because they want to protect their job. This is not the time to slack off in your job, during a major recession,” Alleger said.

BYU business professor Shad Morris said the move to online work has created a new set of challenges related to how people connect with each other, but he said he believes those challenges are going to inspire the next wave of innovation.

There are already plenty of online systems meant to help employers keep track of their employees while working remotely, and Morris says these programs will likely become the norm because of the way the job market is shifting. He said the purpose of these programs is to make sure that employees are being just as productive from home as they were in an office.

“It’s not necessarily that they’re trying to control everything you do. It’s just ensuring consistency and quality in the work that’s done,” Morris said.

According to Morris, the coronavirus pandemic has simply been a means of speeding up job trends that were already gaining traction, like the freelance or “gig” style of working, where companies hire professionals to complete some task on a one-time, contractual basis, meaning less and less people will have traditional full-time jobs.

“That’s where the future market is heading. Those are the companies that are really going to be jumping up in value — companies that create a platform online for people to come together and work,” Morris said.

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