The pandemic has forced an explosion of growth in virtual technology and applications. Innovations have been made in the last year to meet the rise in urgent demand, and virtual working / meeting spaces and classrooms have had a huge boost in their implementation and accessibility.

Woman working remotely with her kids playing nearby

Our lives have been fundamentally changed- permanently. Compared to last year, the time spent online has increased by 30 percent, or about five hours per day. It rose 20 percent in the first quarter of 2020 alone. While this may initially sound like a bad thing, it’s actually a sign of how we’ve successfully pivoted our daily operations. By introducing better technology and increasing accessibility, social and entertainment platforms have seen an uptick in user engagement, college education has become less formal and more workable for a larger demographic wanting to further their education, and American workers are more productive and happier in their current jobs than before the pandemic.

Americans prefer working remotely

A Gallup poll found that most working Americans would prefer to continue working from home after the pandemic. With stay-at-home orders keeping families working and attending classes all under the same roof, there’s convincing evidence that this is a new normal most people are eager to maintain.

Commuting alone seems to play a huge role in the overall health and happiness of individuals and the planet. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute reported that, before quarantine, Americans spent an average of 54 hours per year commuting to and from work. No longer having to commute means a plethora of good things. For starters, thanks to remote positions, people no longer have to wake up extra early to sit in morning rush hour traffic. This means they’re getting more sleep, are better rested, less stressed, and are therefore more productive. It also gives them a little extra time to get things done. This alone has made a huge impact in employee job satisfaction because it’s removed one stress factor from their day completely.

Not commuting has also positively impacted the planet; reducing air pollution from vehicles and the dependency on fossil fuels. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that, if every employed American worked remotely at least half of the time, greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles could be reduced by over 51 million metric tons per year. In addition, people would also save a minimum of $2,000 on gas alone. That’s not even including additional costs they’d save on car maintenance and insurance, child care, or lunches or coffee out during the work or school day.

Working remotely can be more productive

People working remotely have found they’re more productive in an environment that’s more comfortable to them. It’s helped introverts and people with anxiety be more productive because they have less social anxiety to worry about and they’re more focused. When you’re in your own home, you can be surrounded by your belongings and have easy access to things you might need. As long as you’re getting work done, you can pause when you need to, or call your doctor’s office back without having to run out into the hall for privacy. These little things have been a huge relief to many people.

Another great perk is that people are finding they have more time to get things done around the house, so their homes are cleaner than before. They also find that, since they’re able to do more chores in between work tasks, they’re moving around more than they might in an office. More movement plus a cleaner environment means people are getting sick less from common cold viruses and allergens. Letting employees work from home can help keep them, and their families, safe from communicable diseases, not just from COVID-19.

Most people with younger children also agreed that, although there can be distractions in the middle of the work day, being home allowed them to have more time with their families. Even if it’s just lunch together in the kitchen, or helping their child with a math problem, they’ve had more interaction, which has been positive overall for most family dynamics.  

Working at home makes people happier

Based on a poll of over 9,000 US-based workers, 44 percent of remote workers are happier in their jobs now than before the coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic has shown business owners and managers that employees can be trusted to work without supervision, and still be just as productive, if not more productive, as before. Going forward, most employees will probably strive for opportunities where they can enjoy working remotely at least part of the time.

Many students will likely do the same. More availability and flexibility of courses has given people a chance to accommodate the needs that help them learn most effectively. Students are saving money by living and attending school from home, plus there’s less distraction from loud dorm rooms and other students who just want to party. Many working adults have invested into continued education to move or change job roles, and stay-at-home parents have been able to learn new skills and trades that will help them at home or in the working world. With more options for online education that are relatively low risk and low cost, people are motivated to make advancements in their careers or towards degrees they otherwise wouldn’t make.

Necessity sped up the digital era considerably, but it will hopefully aid in the permanent healing and advancement of our community and planet. As online formats catch up with demand and continue to invest in long term tech, it’s highly unlikely there will be a full return to in-office or in-person roles. 2020 brought many hardships for so many people, but it’s also given people a chance to reflect, realign, and re-prioritize their needs. We’ve learned that our old systems weren’t always the healthiest or the most sustainable, and if any good came out of this global crisis, it’s that we were finally pushed to make some changes for a better future.

If you could use some help adjusting to virtual life, you might want to work with a virtual assistant. If you’re not sure what all a virtual assistant can help with, we’ve got a handy resource filled with more than 30 ways to use a virtual assistant.