Spotlight: Pros and cons of work-from-home amid lingering COVID-19 pandemic in US – Xinhua | English.news.cn – Xinhua - Freelance Rack

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Sunday, August 9, 2020

Spotlight: Pros and cons of work-from-home amid lingering COVID-19 pandemic in US – Xinhua | English.news.cn – Xinhua

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by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) — Working from home has been a growing business trend over the past decade. With a lingering COVID-19 pandemic, the practice has accelerated at breakneck speed in the United States.

Now millions of Americans have found themselves at home with a latte in one hand and their laptop in the other.

TRENDING MODEL

Chris Mesina, who works in IT in the Washington D.C. area, told Xinhua he believes his company may never reopen its offices.

In his estimation, he may be “working from home forever,” or at least as long as he is employed by his current firm.

U.S. tech giant Facebook recently announced that employees would be allowed to work from home at least until July of next year. The company stands among a number of other U.S. firms doing the same.

Google announced it will continue to allow people to work remotely through the summer of next year, while Uber, Twitter, Square, Slack and Shopify have all announced that employees can work from home on a permanent basis.

However, Facebook will continue to reopen offices in limited ways in areas where COVID-19 has been mitigated for around two months, the company told CNBC earlier this week.

Experts said many companies will follow in Facebook’s footsteps — offering a combination of telecommuting and in-office work.

Gene Marks, founder of The Marks Group and regular commentator on CNBC, Fox Business and MSNBC, said smart companies will still embrace some form of remote work, but many employees will also return to the office.

“They’ll use their work-from-home policies to attract younger and more mobile employees and offer it up as a benefit for those who need that kind of flexibility,” he said in a recent article by Washington newspaper The Hill.

“But they’ll still require face time. They’ll balance their remote working policies with an office,” Marks added.

Once there is a vaccine available, many Americans will go back to the office, while others will continue to telecommute either full or part-time, according to experts and business trends.

PROS AND CONS

To be sure, there are benefits to the work-from-home model, apart from saving hundreds of dollars in gas and tolls on commute. Offices are full of distractions, such as water cooler gossip, myriad opportunities for socialization, unnecessary meetings — the list is endless.

Mesina said avoiding office politics, chatty coworkers and bureaucratic distractions has boosted his productivity.

Jenna Murray, who works in logistics, also told Xinhua she is “more productive” at home as she is working in the time spent not sitting in traffic on the way to and from the office.

Erica Komisar, a New York psychoanalyst, wrote on The Wall Street Journal last week that working at home can be extremely beneficial for new mothers, giving them the ability to care for young children more easily.

Studies show the cost savings of work from home policies can be enormous, Komisar added.

Commenting on a study by Stanford University, she noted that in 2014, a Chinese travel-agency call center estimated each employee who worked from home saved 375 U.S. dollars based on higher productivity, 1,250 dollars in office expenses, and 400 dollars from reduced attrition.

Aetna, a major U.S. insurance company, in the past got rid of 2.7 million square feet of office space, saving some 78 million dollars. And with the skyrocketing cost of real estate in major cities like New York, many companies will undoubtedly save a bundle during the pandemic, and possibly beyond.

However, the practice may also have its limitations. Some employees require daily structure and collaboration with coworkers. Many top companies, especially in the tech world, also have a culture of face-to-face collaboration that they say contributes to their success.

Karen Henry, who works in procurement in the Washington D.C. area, told Xinhua that the worst for working at home is holding online meetings on big projects.

“People are easily distracted by what’s happening at home,” more so than they would be if they were sitting in a conference room, she said.

MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES

The human brain is wired to require daily, human-to-human interaction to ward off feelings of isolation and depression and relieve stress, experts have said, adding electronic contact such as texting is not a substitute.

That may explain why work-from-homers said finding a coffee shop or public place from which to work is crucial to staying productive — even a two-minute conversation with a barista at Starbucks can, for many people, satisfy the human need for daily social interaction.

U.S. media outlets have reported an uptick of depression, social isolation and weight gain associated with working from home during the pandemic.

The American Psychological Association said last month COVID-19 has brought a “raft of intense new stressors while removing many of the resources people have traditionally used to cope with stress.”

Disrupted routines and the potential for contracting a life-threatening disease may be “exacerbating pre-existing problems such as mental illness or substance use,” it said.

Meanwhile, social distancing is “endangering mental health even as it protects physical health,” the article said, adding it may also increase the risk of suicide.

However, it will be a while before COVID-19’s actual impact on the nation’s suicide rate is known, it said.

“We’re two years away from having data,” the article quoted Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, as saying. Enditem



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