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Working from home: Will it become a new norm?

The COVID pandemic created a need for many people to work from home, and that’s led to new questions after the success of vaccines.

It’s now possible for most workers to return to their offices. In some cases questions might come up about whether people can continue to work from home if they like it.

There could also potentially be a question as to whether employers might choose not to provide office space anymore. Employees could be told to work from home permanently.

Employers can have any guideline they choose. A few employees might be left with the choice of taking an option they don’t really want or finding another job.

With that basic fact in mind, it’s still worthwhile to consider what’s fair. It’s worth it for employers to carefully consider all factors before insisting on only one option.

Some employees like working at home. There’s the convenience of not having as much of a morning routine, not having a commute to and from work, and not having the typical office-related background noise.

Others haven’t exactly enjoyed their home-based situations. They find that it’s easier to have a work mode and a home mode, to switch back and forth in a way that keeps the two spheres from intersecting.

Young children and pets don’t know when someone working from home needs to concentrate on work tasks. Instead it seems like they should have time to pay attention like they do when they aren’t working. It can become a delicate balance.

It’s a question of whether to break from tradition. The office setting has been a basic standard for most types of workers who do desk jobs.

There’s value in face to face interaction with co-workers. It can inspire team efforts. It can facilitate communication, thereby helping to guarantee that information is shared when needed.

It can help to have co-workers available to take messages for each other. It’s good if they can parcel out work on a moment’s notice.

For those reasons the office setting has worked well for many years. It’s only because of computers that working from home has reached the point of possibly being an alternative. It’s an option that might be practical for some organizations but not for others.

In a perfect world everybody would have a choice. At least a few workers might have that opportunity. It remains to be seen how much the trend started in response to the pandemic could become a norm for a large share of the population.

It’s safe to say that the percentage of people working from home is likely to grow at least by a small margin. There’s a track record now that can be considered and evaluated. It might remove some of the uncertainty that’s been attached to the idea of telecommuting.

It could potentially become a sign of the times. It might lead to new choices about how we work, when we work and where we can be based. It might create new opportunities for both workers and their organizations.

It’s important for individuals to be flexible depending on the circumstances. It’s valuable to be able to function well under either scenario, to be able to do whatever is best for getting things done. That’s the best foundation for success.

It’s only the definition of versatility that can change as society changes. The basic idea of being versatile has always been a good thing.

— Jim Muchlinski is a long-time reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent

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