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The coronavirus could actually make working from home more commonplace

CNBC logo CNBC 06/03/2020 Vicky McKeever

Lucy Ramos sitting at a table using a laptop: Just a third of people in the U.S. currently work remotely, according to a survey by platform Workhuman. © Provided by CNBC Just a third of people in the U.S. currently work remotely, according to a survey by platform Workhuman.

Social media platform Twitter has urged its employees to work from home, as part of its efforts to limit the further spread of the coronavirus. 

Tech giant Google and investment bank JPMorgan are also among the companies reportedly testing out remote working policies as a precaution. 

Only a third of people in the U.S. currently work remotely, according to a survey of 2,613 full-time workers in America by platform Workhuman, published on Wednesday. 

However, a global poll from 2018 by data and insights company Kantar found that of 33,000 people, 32% valued a job where they could work from home

Joe Hirsh, a leadership and communication expert, told CNBC that he believed the outbreak of the coronavirus has the potential to make working from home more common practice. 

He argued that if more companies follow in the footsteps of Twitter and Google, this could "shift workplace dynamics." 

Jon Addison, vice president of talent solutions EMEA at LinkedIn, agreed that businesses would inevitably find it more challenging to continue with "business as usual" under the current circumstances, if they lack the technology infrastructure to work remotely or flexible working policies. 

For some, he said, the coronavirus outbreak could act as a "wake-up call" to enact this change.  

He said that working from home could actually prove advantageous for certain tasks, such as those which require "deep focus or privacy due to the sensitive nature of what's being worked on."

Stephen Shih, who is a partner at global management consulting firm Bain & Company and is based in the company's Shanghai office, believed the coronavirus was one of a number of factors driving the increase in remote working.

He argued that the development of cheaper and more widely available video-conferencing technology and collaboration tools also played a role. In addition, the pressure to offer more flexible working to retain talent and have a greater consideration for individuals' carbon footprints, were other factors propelling change in company policies.

However, he added that the outbreak of COVID-19 was accelerating this trend.

Bob Cordran, partner at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, said companies may also be forced to become more lenient about working from home, with some workers having to take on childcare duties amid school closures.

"This may require some flexibility since homeworking arrangements often stipulate that the employee is not caring for children (particularly young ones) while working from home," he explained.

How to help employees work remotely

More than half of workers in the Workhuman report said they had experienced burnout in their career, with the top cause being too much work and not enough resources. 

Hirsch said this feeling could be compounded when working from home alone. He suggested managers counter this by "strengthening their presence," holding frequent check-ins via video or phone conversations with staff. 

Similarly, he said that the old saying of "out of sight, out of mind" can ring particularly true for remote workers, who "may feel marginalized by their decision to work from home."

He cited one company which creates special emojis for remote teams when they reach certain goals, while another of his clients sends birthday cakes to employees' homes. 

When teams are speaking as a group, he recommended that managers "carve out meeting time to hear from each employee about something funny or frustrating happening at home, in an effort to humanize the virtual workplace." 

Shih agreed, saying that even once the coronavirus outbreak has subsided, it is important to make sure workplace relationships and culture are "not lost in working from home."

Check out: Does your credit card travel insurance cover coronavirus cancellations?

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