America has been making rapid progress towards returning to normal as we progress into 2021. Here at NC State, our very own Protect the Pack recently announced maskless opportunities and more normal protocols for the fall. During our rush to return to how things used to be, I believe that some things, like working from home, should remain.
For almost a year now, any job positions that did not have to be in person — such as finance or insurance positions, various computer jobs and management positions — have been affected by the ‘work from home’ mandate. Most people were outraged when businesses first started telling people to work from home, and my family was no exception.
When my father was first forced to leave his high-tech private office building and move into my sister’s old room, I was beyond pissed. My father and I constantly fought over things like Wi-Fi, food and the appropriate noise level inside the house. Eventually though, my dad and I fell into a rhythm. We figured out how to re-adjust and find balance and having my dad around actually became nice.
I’m sure I am not the only one in the Wolfpack community who was thrown through a loop when a family member was forced to convert their home into an office. Even faculty members here at NC State were forced to relocate. Now, as things return to how they used to be, a new wave of NC State alumni are entering the workforce, but what would be better for them, returning to the office or staying at home?
Studies on the effects of working from home find that it can actually have a wide variety of benefits for employees, such as empowering employees like my dad to find a better work-life balance. The new work structure has also shown to increase employees’ ability to improve their personal health. For example, people who work from home have more control over their diets and therefore are able to take the time to make themselves nutritious, healthy meal options instead of relying on whatever they have time to pack for the day.
Working from home has also been shown to have a positive impact on employees' mental health. FlexJobs says personalized office spaces and the decrease in traffic agitation has resulted in a noticeable decline in anxiety in employees. The environment has also had a sigh of relief from the reduction in traffic as well. FlexJobs noted that the reduced number of commuters during the pandemic avoided releasing an estimated 3 million tons of greenhouse gases and saved around $980 million in oil. Imagine how much of an impact working from home could have on the environment if we made this a normal thing.
FlexJobs also argues that working from home has actually saved employees money because they no longer have to pay for various expenses like gas and parking. The employees are not the only ones benefiting from this arrangement, though. Apollo Technical found that employee productivity actually increased by 47% after starting to work from home and they actually worked the average of one more day per week than they did while in the office. So not only are employees happier, healthier and economically benefiting, but companies are as well.
What does this mean for us graduating college students and recent NC State alumni, though? Well, it means that working from home could be a less stressful and more balanced work option that is more cost effective for both us and our employers in the long run. Working from home is not all sunshine and roses, though. A research article from PLOS ONE found that working from home can actually have negative social effects on some people because it isolates them from their colleagues and reduces chances for social opportunities. Additionally, working from home takes a lot of self-discipline in order to maintain healthy work-life balances and avoid distractions.
Working from home is not everyone’s cup of tea and it surely is not the answer to all work problems, but it has been shown to have positive benefits for all involved. I believe that working from home is a serious option businesses need to consider keeping around, and if given the opportunity, graduating college students and NC State alumni should seize it before it is lost in our return to normalcy.