Business

The One-Minute Commute

How COVID has forced employers to reconsider the status quo of office work.
The One-Minute Commute

Living through COVID-19 has shown us the loss of productivity that can result from unexpected factors that can rise around us, but we overlook the ways in which it has mistakenly increased our efficiency when it comes to working. Specifically, that is the number of people who commute, or otherwise the commute time to work.

Statistics Canada released 2016 data showing 1.5 million Canadians spent at least 60 minutes commuting to work. (Statistics Canada 2019). These numbers have also been increasing, contributing to a further loss in time and productivity where the direct cost per week per individual for a commute of one hour each way is around $273. (Bennardo 2019) Eric Miller, the director of the University of Toronto’s Transportation Research Institute, reveals that the economic implications go even further, as traffic “slows truck drivers, making it longer for them to deliver goods and services” to businesses and customers. Additionally, travelling between suburbs becomes less efficient using public transport which is designed to function better in close proximity and inner cities. Consequently, employees do not arrive to work on time.  (Bennardo 2019)

The coronavirus pandemic has been a wakeup call to possible environmental changes that have the potential to be both economically and culturally significant. That is, for some of us, the commute time could go from 60 minutes to just under a minute. A Gartner Inc. study shows that of the three in four CFOs and finance leaders surveyed, 5% of their respective workforce is to work remotely rather than on-site, and a quarter intend to permanently move 20% of their employees in a similar scheme. (Gartner 2020)



Letting employees work from home can be cost-effective for not only employees, but businesses as well.  Labor economist Julia Pollak mentions that companies were previously reluctant to let employees work from home because of the set-in-stone norms and conventional working practices. (KHAZAN 2020) Within five to ten years, Facebook says half of their employees could be working from home. (Newton 2020) Companies like Twitter and Shopify intend to implement similar practices. (Cheng 2020) Not only would this cut commute time and increase productivity, as a Chinese work-from-home study claims (Nicholas Bloom 2015), but it is possibly a breakthrough for cost management. Implementation can effectively cut down expenses such as real estate costs, utility usage, and other facilities costs (Kovar 2020), enabling potential sustainable growth. (Clifford 2020) Shopify, for instance, mentioned that offices will be limited to 20%-25% of their original capacity after they follow through with the plan. (Cheng 2020)

“Many employees for companies who have sent all staff home are already starting to question why they had to go into the office in the first place.”

Working remotely imposes implications on IT operations internal and external to businesses. To impose the work-from-home plan for employees, businesses will have to conduct a major change in their IT strategy. On-site locations and business facilities usually ensure a secured network in terms of communication to avoid risks such as cybersecurity attacks and information leaks. However, individual home networks may not be that well secured. For instance, Wrike, a collaboration software company, shows that 1 in 5 surveyed workers did not receive guidelines from their company on how to securely work from remote locations through a study conducted in April 2020. Furthermore, 41% of employees mentioned that they use personal applications to transmit confidential files at least on a weekly basis. (Pham 2020)

Consequently, undergoing IT strategy changes requires the engagement of the IT industry, which has possible implications on the industry’s performance. Namely, the opportunity for growth of the Cybersecurity industry presents itself as they specialize in securing networks, computers, and online systems from disruption. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxylabs discovered impressive gains in the cybersecurity industry, with a 14.7% increase in gains during April (Černiauskas 2020). In contrast, other industries faced tremendous losses during April. For example, the HR sector faced a loss of 12.9%, and consumer spending has drastically decreased. (Ibid) Cybersecurity firms now have the chance to thrive in securing new methods of communication as new working practices are being implemented. 

It is important to realize the additional costs, such as equipment essentials and delivery costs associated with employees working from home, need to be examined by companies. That is considering the essentials needed to sustain working from home securely in a reliable manner.

Moreover, the internal employee strategy within the company might have to change when implementing remote jobs, given the risks that may arise in the new circumstances. Employees will be required to receive the right training for how to conduct working from home efficiently, and a new performance evaluation system might have to be developed to measure factors like accountability from a distance. Online training and consultancy firms have the chance to stand out and develop these resources now more than ever. These firms will have the chance to innovate, and possibly even provide new products and services. Oxylabs discovered that companies gathering industry & market research prior to product development or release showed “the best performance increase” during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an 83% in gains between April and March. (Černiauskas 2020) As our environment begins to change, more and more start coming up with innovative ideas for businesses to adapt to these changes.

There are other internal risks present, such as a threat to team cohesiveness and collaboration challenges. (Brownlee 2020). For instance, the 2019 McKinsey and LeanIn.org Women in the Workplace report showed that half of the women surveyed experienced interruption in conversations occurring in the workplace, and are perceived as being “too emotional” by their male counterparts when voicing an idea they’re excited about during meetings. (Gupta 2020) Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University, implies that these effects are magnified and increased with online interactions. Correspondingly, the firm’s diversity and inclusion strategy might have to be reshaped by companies and their policies, allowing for work from remote locations. 

There are potential benefits to working from home. The coronavirus pandemic highlights the importance of adapting in an environment that requires employees to work remotely. As a result, the potential strategies of companies might undergo a permanent change as businesses choose to keep jobs remote. Industries such as research and cybersecurity firms might grow in helping companies adapt to these changes. This allows employees to work from the comfort of their own home securely and efficiently in a cost-effective manner for businesses. However, the opportunity cost is at the expense of reconstructing company policies & strategy, maintaining intrinsic employee motivation, and ensuring the efficiency of high-quality work that allows for sustainable company growth. Various things are uncertain, some factors and costs we might not even account for from now shall reveal themselves in the near future, and all we can do to see how things will play out in the long-run is wait. Process innovation is wanted during this time to help us adapt.

References:

Bennardo, Melissa. 2019. Commute times are getting longer — and it's costing us. Mar 5. Accessed May 21, 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/statistics-canada-commute-times-study-1.5038796.

—. 2019. StatsCan study shows Canadian commute times are getting longer — and it's costing us. Mar 5. Accessed May 21, 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/statistics-canada-commute-times-study-1.5038796.

Brownlee, Dana. 2020. Twitter, Square Announce Work From Home Forever Option: What Are The Risks? May 18. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danabrownlee/2020/05/18/twitter-square-announce-work-from-home-forever-optionwhat-are-the-risks/#74f393542565.

Černiauskas, Julius. 2020. A Big Data Look at the COVID-19 Economy Finds It’s Bad but Not All Bad. May 16. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://gritdaily.com/a-big-data-look-at-the-covid-19-economy-finds-its-bad-but-not-all-bad/.

Cheng, Candy. 2020. Shopify Is Joining Twitter in Permanent Work-From-Home Shift. May 21. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-21/shopify-is-joining-twitter-in-permanent-work-from-home-shift.

Clifford, Lee. 2020. Working from home during coronavirus is going so well that this Fortune 100 company is going to keep doing it—permanently. May 11. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://fortune.com/2020/05/11/permanent-work-from-home-coronavirus-nationwide-fortune-100/.

Gartner . 2020. Gartner CFO Survey Reveals 74% Intend to Shift Some Employees to Remote Work Permanently. Apr 3. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-04-03-gartner-cfo-surey-reveals-74-percent-of-organizations-to-shift-some-employees-to-remote-work-permanently2.

Gupta, Alisha Haridasani. 2020. It’s Not Just You: In Online Meetings, Many Women Can’t Get a Word In. April 14. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/us/zoom-meetings-gender.html.

KHAZAN, OLGA. 2020. Work From Home Is Here to Stay. May 4. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/05/work-from-home-pandemic/611098/.

Kovar, Joseph F. 2020. Some May Work From Home Permanently After COVID-19: Gartner. Apr 13. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://www.crn.com/news/running-your-business/some-may-work-from-home-permanently-after-covid-19-gartner.

Newton, Casey. 2020. FACEBOOK SAYS IT WILL PERMANENTLY SHIFT TENS OF THOUSANDS OF JOBS TO REMOTE WORK. May 21. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://www.theverge.com/facebook/2020/5/21/21265699/facebook-remote-work-shift-workforce-permanent-covid-19-mark-zuckerberg-interview.

Nicholas Bloom, James Liang, John Roberts, Zhichun Jenny Ying. 2015. DOES WORKING FROM HOME WORK? EVIDENCE FROM. Mar 3. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://nbloom.people.stanford.edu/sites/g/files/sbiybj4746/f/wfh.pdf.

Pham, Melinda. 2020. Remote Work Security Survey Results: Is Remote Work Really Secure? May 14. Accessed May 22, 2020. https://www.wrike.com/blog/remote-work-security-survey/.

Statistics Canada. 2019. Study: Long commutes to work by car. Feb 25. Accessed May 21, 2020. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/190225/dq190225a-eng.htm.


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