COVID-19 has proven that people can be productive away from the office

In light of ongoing challenges from the pandemic, employers and employees alike need to question whether a return to the office is a necessity

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Workplaces around the world made a shift in the way they work in the spring of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down operations and offices around the globe. From March through August of that year, my supply chain teammates worked from home until the pandemic appeared to have peaked, when we were then required to come in again every day. Many other companies also adopted a similar strategy for their supply chain teams. While we have returned to the office, our time at home demonstrated that remote working benefitted employers and their employees. The COVID-19 pandemic also proved that employees can be productive, and successfully manage a supply chain, while working remotely.

Remote working was not a U.S. phenomenon. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) reported that over one-third of the employees in the world worked remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic; while only around 6% of employees worked remotely before COVID-19. Even essential employees who did not need to be in the office all day long, were advised to work from home unless it was absolutely necessary for them to come into the office.

While only 7% of employees in production worked remotely during the peak of COVID-19, the NCCI also reported that a higher number of occupations within these production groups that worked remotely. Supply chain occupations make up a lot of the occupations within production. Supply chain management, engineers, analysts and other essential employees who didn’t need to be in a facility all day were asked to work from home as much as possible. This shift in supply chain workers’ way of working helped supply chain employees figure out new ways to manage a company’s supply chain remotely, without relying on constant in-person contact.
There was a side benefit to remote jobs: Employees working from home were happier and increased their desire to stay at their job by allowing them to have a better work-life balance.

A survey conducted by Owl Labs discovered that employees who worked at home were 22% happier than those who work in an onsite office environment. Employees were able to adapt their sleeping schedules, easily schedule appointments, do schoolwork and do their work whenever they wanted, while working from home. People were able to spend adequate time with their kids, which also allowed them to focus more on their work when their kids were occupied with other activities. The ability to work from home gave employees the flexibility to divide their work and life in a more desirable way than their schedule working in the office would allow.

A large group of people believe that people who work remotely do not complete as much work as they would if they were in the office. However, according to a survey of over 800 employees conducted by Mercer, an HR consulting firm, 94% of employees stated work productivity was the same or higher since people started working from home. People work just as much, if not more, when working remotely instead of working in the office.

What’s more, remote workers say they are more comfortable and not in a hurry to leave the place they are working. According to Owl Labs, remote employees report saving an average of 40 minutes a day by not having to commute.

After getting the opportunity to work from home during COVID-19, many people have lost their willingness to physically come into the office. Given the data favoring remote work, requirements that employees return to the office at a time when workers are still confronting issue related to childcare and grappling with variants, we have to ask: Why are certain companies or managers not flexible with their employees working from home?

Given the ongoing talent shortages, moves from cities to suburbs and suburbs to small towns and a renewed emphasis on quality of life, remote work is an issue that supply chain employees and their managers will have to negotiate in the years to come.

Iqra Arshad works in supply chain for a midwestern manufacturer and is pursuing an MBA in supply chain management at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She can be reached at [email protected].


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