The coronavirus has had an impact across the industrial world, causing a slow down in supply chain movement, factory production and it has substantially reduced the amount of traffic on the roads in the US.
Since the coronavirus hit North Carolina and the rest of the United States, there has been a lot of questions & concerns around the future of work. Questions relating to the format of work and the strength of the job market in general.
The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively created a ‘forced experiment’ regarding working from home. The good news for many is that the experiment, in the main, has been a success. With many reporting that productivity has remained as high, if not higher when working from home as opposed to working in the office.
People also seem to generally prefer working from home too. A report from Flexjobs for example, claims that 80% of remote workers experience less stress when working from home and that 90% of employees report increased morale due to flexible work arrangements.
The fact the so many companies have reported a successful transition to remote working during the pandemic will likely cause some type of ‘after-shocks’ once the pandemic has run its course. Whenever that will be!
Remote Working in Charlotte & the State of North Carolina
Bringing our focus back to North Carolina, it has recently been reported that the state has been ranked 8th in terms of the number of remote job listings – although the statistics provide by Flexjobs were published back in February of this year. The state is home to many remote-friendly employers, including PRA Health Sciences.
Job availability is one thing (at the time of writing there are 837 remote jobs listed on Indeed.com for Charlotte NC), but what about an employees ability to work from home in the first place? It’s great if job opportunities are out there, however, if you don’t have a fast internet connection, a house big enough for a home office and your electricity costs are already remarkably high, then working from home might not seem too appealing.
In a report conducted by personal finance website WalletHub, the state of North Carolina was ranked 9th (out of all US states) for remote working ‘living conditions’ – which analysed labor, utilities and housing information. NC was also ranked an impressive 5th position for ‘work environment’ which looked at internet access and the level of cybersecurity available to remote workers in each state. Interestingly, Delaware was ranked as the best state overall for those looking to work remotely, with Alaska, unsurprisingly, coming in last. Obviously, Alaska is a stunning & beautiful place, but isn’t great for internet access!
Back in February 2020, 7% of workers in the Charlotte area, where working from home, up from 5% in 2013 according to US Census Bureau data. This percentage has no doubt increased since the data was collated – but is remote working for everyone?
The Downsides of Remote Working
Whilst flexibility is often touted as a major benefit of remote working, there are also many downsides. Remote working can be very isolating and lonely and many workers can have difficulty staying focused.
Interruptions can also be a major problem. Telephone calls, salesmen at the door, even friends calling can all knock workers out of any kind of flow.
Also, for managers and business owners, not having your team or employees in once place can be a pain. Working on complicated projects, with a number of team members, can be tricky when everyone is working remotely. It can also help to have some kind of support-system on a personal level, in your working environment. If you are going through a hard time, like a relationship breakup, it can be good just to have a friendly colleague or associate beside you, to talk to, even if it’s just to distract you from what’s going on inside your head.
Also, working from home can interfere with your family life. It can be difficult to create a boundary between work and home, especially if you don’t have set working hours.
Some mobile phone apps have been developed to help people work from home with more productivity. Zoom, Google Drive and Microsoft Teams are all great tools for allowing teams to collaborate on tasks and generally communicate with one another.
For the entrepreneur, a telephone answering app such as the one available from Moneypenny can also help to cut out distracting sales calls and the like, allowing business owners to focus on the work at hand. On the Macbook Serene is a free app that allows you to set a single daily goal because multitasking can often lead to less productivity (see Stanford study here), and it also blocks distracting websites and apps during working hours.
Another great app is the Chrome Remote Desktop, which allows you to securely access your computer from your phone or tablet.
Winners & Losers Post Pandemic?
In North Carolina, the cost of commercial real estate is already below the national average. Commercial real estate will be an interesting industry to keep an eye on moving forwards. In theory, more office space will be needed to accommodate social distancing, however, if people continue to work from home and if conferences continue to be broadcast online, it’s possible that the demand will fall.
Businesses that enable remote working, are likely to come out as the major ‘winners’ both during and after the pandemic. It will be interesting to see if there are any ‘surprise winners’ from other industries once the pandemic, at some point, is all over! With Information & Communications Technology cited as one of the major industries in North Carolina, along with aerospace, aviation and life sciences, it seems likely that North Carolina will come out of the pandemic in a strong position.