Why working from home may be the new normal after the pandemic

Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 2:51 PM EDT
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After months of working from home, Americans may be waiting for the phone call to return to the office. But for companies seeing the benefits of a remote workforce, there's no great hurry, and that could mean a permanent shift in the way we work.

As the executive director of Catholic Guardian Services, Craig Longley manages a staff of more than 700 workers, but these days, he's all alone. The nonprofit serves New York's at-risk communities. But with the majority of his staff now working remotely, Longley decided to give up most of his office space and make the change permanent.

"The feedback so far has been very, very positive," he said. "They will miss that regular day-to-day contact, but we can find ways of creating that."

Sharon Torres is the organization's assistant executive director of human resources. She hopes the shift will help people focus on what's important.

"Our kids, our pets, our parents, our friends, having activities that we had to skip before because of the commute from the city home," she said.

In a poll of human resource executives from the Conference Board, 77% expect the number of employees working primarily from home will increase after the pandemic subsides. Twitter and Facebook have both said they're on board.

"It's quite possible that over the next five to 10 years, about 50% of our people could be working remotely," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

In New York, some of the city's biggest commercial tenants, including banks, research firms and real estate companies, are considering a smaller, less expensive footprint. That change will affect the micro-economies that cater to office workers, like transportation systems, restaurants and dry cleaners. For some workers, it will prolong the sense of isolation.

"We're telling our managers, don't forget the human side of your direct report," Longley said. "Ask them about how their day is going."

Longley knows he's on the leading edge of change, a shift that may permanently transform the way Americans balance home life and work. Catholic Guardian Services expects to save as much as half a million dollars a year on rent, and plans to use part of that savings for salaries, benefits and retirement plans.

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