5 Industries WFH Can Be Permanent and 5 Industries That Need to Be in the Office


During the global pandemic, almost every company moved to a work-from-home model. At specific points in some countries, only frontline workers were allowed to face their jobs in person, and the rest of the population was inside their homes, on a Zoom call or in a virtual classroom.

As the world moves toward a sense of normalcy, many are returning to work. But some industries have been irrevocably changed, so much so many workers may find themselves working from home permanently. Whether you enjoyed the opportunity to work from home or if you’re looking forward to seeing the office blinds, desks and decór again, workers in specific industries won’t be commuting again anytime soon.

There are two primary considerations when examining which types of jobs would do well with a permanent move to a home office and which ones necessitate an in-person experience. Jobs that require significant levels of person-to-person interaction like barbers, doctors and masseuses are more likely to head back to their offices when COVID-19 infection rates stabilize.

On the other hand, those who have jobs centering around technology, specifically computers, are more capable of transitioning to a permanent WFH model. Here are five positions in which WFH may be permanent and five industries that will head back to the office soon.

Jobs That Will Stay at Home

According to the American Journal of Public Health, only 25 percent of American jobs can be done remotely, which leaves a whopping 75 percent with some sort of interaction with the public.

If you have a job in one of these industries, you may be thinking about swapping your spare room drapes for some inexpensive window blinds to give your new home office a more professional look. Here are the types of jobs likely to remain remote post-pandemic:

1. IT or Tech Jobs

A job that has you working primarily with computers and technology is ideal for a global pandemic that keeps most of the workforce inside their homes. You can take care of many IT issues through a phone call, virtual meeting or shared screen.

2. Consulting

No matter what you consult on – finance, life skills, career opportunities – you will likely be able to shift your professional life from a physical space where you have one-on-ones with clients to a virtual one. Much of a consultant’s job involves talking to clients, listening and collaborating with team members in a digital space. All aspects of this role are possible to accomplish even if you’re not in the same room with a person.

3. Finances

Much like jobs that work primarily with technology, a position concerned with moving money around can be effective in any location and time zone, provided there’s an internet connection. Those who work with stocks and bonds and are tuned to the Dow Jones Industrial Average don’t have to work directly with the public and can stay home to manage money.

4. Engineers

A lot of an engineer’s work is in planning, which you can easily take care of through your laptop or other industry-specific software. Unless you’re an architect who needs to be onsite with building plans, you can likely take care of much of your engineering job from the comforts of a home study.

5. Lawyers

Except for those attorneys who regularly appear in court, many workers in the legal system won’t need to be physically present in an office as long as technology can provide a virtual space in which to interact. It’s possible to handle mediations and arbitrations online, so, unless you’re calling someone to the stand, you don’t have to worry about leaving the confines of your home.

Jobs That Will Head Back to the Office

If your job necessitates in-person contact or the physical handling of goods or other services, then you may be unable to shift your occupation to a permanent WFH scenario.

1. Retail

While some fully automated stores exist – like fully automatic mini-casinos in Nevada – they are rare. For the most part, shops like boutiques, shoe shops or clothing stores need to be manned by humans to field client requests and make each customer feel relaxed and comfortable.

Many consumers want to try on clothing or see an item in person before they buy it, and it’s good for businesses to have a friendly face on the other end of a sales transaction to represent the company. Salespeople can only be replaced by automation to a certain level, and shoppers don’t get the same experience without the human touch.

2. Transportation Services

Some commuter services can be automated, such as certain metro trams or subways, but the world has not yet fully embraced driverless buses and taxis. Especially when it comes to personal transportation services like taxis or ride-sharing services, there needs to be a person in the driver’s seat to get the passenger where they need to go.

3. Food Services

No matter how advanced technology becomes, you cannot make a gourmet meal remotely. Someone needs to be in the kitchen to prepare the ingredients.

Restaurants in particular – and the service industry in general – took a massive blow during the 2020 worldwide shutdown. Although they are slowly opening back up to capacity, many people are still wary of going to restaurants or eating out at all, leaving restaurateurs wondering if they will be able to make up the difference.

For those eateries that survived the worst of the lockdowns, getting back to business means returning to the kitchen and dining room. Restaurants, cafés and other eateries can’t sustainably move food service jobs remotely.

4. Personal Care Services

One of the hardest-hit groups in the pandemic was personal care services. Those who provide personal care services like haircuts, massages, daycare or in-home care were heavily impacted by quarantine and stay-at-home orders.

Some of these jobs are considered critical, so those who work at elderly facilities or as medical care assistants likely kept their jobs through the pandemic. However, other jobs that necessitate contact with another person – like nail techs and tailors – simply cannot operate remotely and still deliver their services.

5. Health Care

Although many patients enjoy the benefits of online doctor’s appointments or therapy sessions, many day-to-day healthcare jobs cannot be accomplished remotely. Nursing, blood work and diagnostics all require a hands-on approach.

Although you can explain most of your symptoms to an RN or MD over the phone, the most effective diagnosis comes from an in-person examination. Health care is not an industry that will move quickly to a remote working model, although the continuation of virtual appointments in some capacity makes health care and mental health care more accessible for some individuals.

The Final Word

If you were lucky enough to have a job that swiftly moved to a WFH model, you might be staring at your home office blinds longer than initially anticipated. Jobs that interact with computers transition easily from an in-person capacity to a remote one, making the WFH approach sustainable. However, those occupations that include in-person services will likely return to their commute before long. 

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