(WTNH) – As mask mandates are lifted and this pandemic is hopefully starting to wane, one big question that remains is what happens to the business world? The pandemic shoved millions of workers out of offices and into their homes, and now, it looks like most of them aren’t coming back, at least not full-time.
Much of American business looks like family time spilling onto computer screens as millions of Americans work from home.
In Northford, DJ Cummings shares his office with his son Connor’s toy room. Cummings is a designer for Bilco, a New Haven-based company known for basement and industrial doors.
He left the office when the pandemic started two years ago when Connor was just one year old. He’s now back in the office two days a week and he is hoping that never changes.
“It’s nice, especially if [Connor] starts sports in a couple of years. It’s nice being around for him,” Cummings said.
Cummings is not alone. New research shows the American workforce is going through a rapid, dramatic change. Right now, about 59 percent of the American jobs that can be done from home are being done from home.
Research also shows that 78 percent of those workers say they want to stay home at least for a few days a week. 32 percent say they will quit if they can’t stay home.
“The big office building, what do they need all that space for with all the technology, the Zoom meetings, you’re face to face with anyone in the world instantly. I certainly never see it going back to normal,” Cummings said.
But do workers in an office really get more done? It looks like the answer is no.
Around 94 percent of employers say productivity from home is up, with a lot of home workers working outside traditional business houses.
“I’m still amazed that we adapted as fast as we did,” Cummings said.
“You work more. You’ve got something due and it’s five o’clock, it doesn’t really mean let’s run home, so I can spend time with my son. Let me get a jump on this, get this done, so you work a little extra, so maybe on a slow day, I play with the son a little bit more because that project got done early,” Cummings said.
Sales rep Robert Riley says after two years, he too prefers working from home.
“Initially I didn’t like it. I like being around people. Our job is easier when we can walk over to someone’s desk or cubicle and ask a question,” Riley said. “As we got acclimated to it, I think everybody kind of enjoyed working from home.”
Quinnipiac University International Business Professor Mohammad Elahee says the rapidly changing business world will be a mixed blessing. More Americans will put more focus on a work-life balance, but the benefits will not be felt by everyone.
“People in certain jobs, they will be the winners. They will be the high-wage earners, but on the other hand, people who are frontline workers, they will suffer,” Elahee said.
What about work relationships? There are some predictions that just like on social media, everyone working alone on a computer could make the workplace meaner.
“When we see each other, we tend to be nicer to each other. When we are sitting in front of a computer, that personal connection is missing,” Elahee said.
While the workplace is changing, DJ and Connor and the rest of their family are embracing these changes and not looking back.
The next big change in the work from home evolution is the metaverse. More than a Zoom meeting, you can be in a virtual office with coworkers from home. Ready or not, it’s coming as a number of companies are already building their virtual office spaces.