- Companies quickly rose to the challenges of remote work
- Employers are considering continuing with the option of remote work even after the pandemic
- Changes will be needed to be implemented to secure the workplace infrastructure
Remote work enabled most businesses to continue functioning during the various lockdowns during the current coronavirus pandemic. Companies quickly rose to the challenges of remote work and subsidized their workforce to get remote work tools. Industries like insurance, finance, and technology embraced it. Facebook and Google announced earlier this year that they will allow their employees to work from home until at least year-end.
Rush hour traffic in most cities has subsided, and Zoom meetings have replaced the long commuting hours of most office workers. One wonders if after the vaccine is circulated, people will easily forfeit working from home for a return to the office again.
Remote work has its challenges
Most companies are managed centrally and if they are to continue with remote work will require structural adjustments and security changes. Structural adjustments include the efficient use of the tools which are often already available to most companies but not utilized effectively.
One of the initial problems of working from home for most employees was the blurring of the boundaries between work and the demands of their private life. In most cases, productivity does not seem to have been impacted, but working from home can impact effective work communication and collaboration.
Profitability for employers
According to a Gartner survey [HA1] taken in the early days of the pandemic, 74% of employers were planning to permanently shift some employees to remote work. The results were based on a survey of 317 CFOs and finance leaders who say that offsite work is increasing profitability. Each remote worker converts to an average saving of $11,000, according to Global Workplace Analytics. These savings come from the scaling down of office space, savings in equipment, and supplies.
Productivity and remote work
Faced with caring for young children or schooling older ones while also juggling work, made the initial transition difficult for those working from home. Once things get back to normal and children once again return to their routine, many parents will be encouraged to work from home for some time to come, and many will grab the opportunity willingly.
Working from home has proven to be productive. In a 2015 study of Chinese call-center employees, it was found that those who worked from home were 13% more productive than those working in a controlled environment; and are also less likely to quit.
Julia Pollack, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter told The Atlantic that entrenched ideas and disinterest are what have kept companies from adopting remote work sooner. Now that nearly two-thirds of Americans have proven that despite the distractions, they can be as productive, Pollack feels it will become more entrenched. After all, working from home is a perk and once a perk becomes entrenched it’s difficult to take it back.
For those people shy who way from face-to-face meetings, conferences, and handshakes foregoing the office politics will not be a problem, and they may well be the ones who will triumph in the post-pandemic workplace.
Understanding when to shut off
In some circumstances, remote work has proven to be beneficial, but for some people, it can become hectic. The problem is understanding when to shut off from work mode and go into relax mode. A few years back France passed a law to prevent people from sending emails outside of work hours. As more Americans work from home, the dangers of constantly being online may demand measures be taken in the U.S. too.
Job postings for remote work have increased since the pandemic as more companies geared up their office structure to accommodate its practicalities.
Only about 37% of jobs in the U.S. can be performed from home. Already the job market is tight, and we cannot know when things will ease. Workers most at risk of losing their jobs are, unfortunately, lower-income workers with jobs that demand their presence.
Companies that invested in remote work during the pandemic have placed themselves in a better position to be more flexible in the future. Working from home appears to benefit workers and employees – workers are less likely to take time off for illnesses, and employers save money.
Post pandemic, companies that can take advantage of the technology they have put in place will encourage people to work from home.
This will mean fewer work-related interactions like conferences and lunches, and from here on leadership will be defined by the increased need for better communication and collaboration. Good leaders will be able to inspire even remotely, and more people will find that working beats networking.
Yes, looking at the benefits, it looks like working from home will stay a thing after the pandemic.