Working from Home in 2021 and Beyond

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Dennis Miller, Associate Vice President of Human Resources and Benefits Administration at The Claremont Colleges. 

As we wrap up calendar year 2020, which has been an exceptionally difficult year worldwide to say the least, thought must be given to the working paradigms organizations must consider in 2021 and beyond – especially those in local and state government, healthcare, and higher education.

According to an article from September 24, 2020, authored by Sheiner and Campbell from The Brookings Institution, revenues from state and local government are forecasted to be reduced by $5.44 trillion by the end of 2022 due to the effects of the pandemic, primarily from less revenue derived from income, sales, property, and corporate taxes. To be sure, the reduction in revenue will likely roll-forward well beyond 2022.

These revenue shortfalls will no doubt lead to these same entities lobbying for relief programs to be offered by the federal government, something we’ve already seen happen in 2020. These organizations will also probably initiate their own internal reform measures to help mitigate the issues the best they can while remaining financially viable. 

One area of interest that continues to percolate is the volume of employee positions at a given employer that are able to work from home (WFH) compared to positions that do not support the WFM model – for obvious reasons. 

Pre-pandemic, in local and state governments and higher education, it was a tough sell to have employees engage in a WFH program. Generally, policies did not support this model and except for using a WFH model only on an “exception basis”, many organizations simply did not support the idea.  Some view the WFH model as ineffective for a variety of data points (some data points more valid than others), and managers will often prefer to see their employees “in person”. 

Sure, for leaders, a WFH model requires a different style of leadership and management. But, is not “adaptability” a key quality of any good leader? 

If 2020 has taught us anything about working remotely, it is that the WFH model can be effective for many positions within local and state government, as well as higher education. The healthcare environment is a little more difficult to broadly apply a WFH model due to the nature of the work, although some healthcare workers do enjoy a WFH model. Still, the mindset has begun to shift in government and higher education to support a WFH model, out of sheer necessity, and the last eight months has already shattered more than a few paradigms about working remotely in many industries. 

For those policy makers within government agencies and higher education, as you conduct the annual review of policies and procedures in preparation for the 2021 calendar year, now is an ideal time to integrate a more formalized WFH written program for 2021 and beyond.

Given the ominous financial outlook for at least the next 2 years, there is likely a way to show how a WFH model will actually lower the overall cost of labor when you factor in the cost for providing a physical workspace, and any of the perks that employees might enjoy by nature of working on-site versus working from home.

How has your organization adapted to the WFH model and its related benefits? 

2 thoughts on “Working from Home in 2021 and Beyond

  1. Dennis – I agree that there will continue to be an expanded number of employees working from home. In addition to the benefits you mention, employers may be able to expand their geographic recruitment areas. Getting potential employees to relocate can be a challenge for those employers in high cost of living areas.

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