A wave of lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing, and isolation has pushed millions around the globe to start working from home. This has accelerated experimentation on new work cultures that struggled to gain acceptance before the COVID-19 pandemic hit us. With the ongoing crisis, the many benefits as well as limitations of remote work are surfacing, and even though many workplaces are reopening, a majority of people will continue to work remotely.
How remote work has evolved
According to an Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) survey, the percentage of people working remotely is likely to double. Employers and HR groups report that the productivity metric during the lockdown has proved that remote working does work. Some of the world’s largest tech companies, like Twitter, told their employees in May 2020 to continue working from home indefinitely. The same was communicated by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in late May. Clearly, remote working has and continues to evolve to tailor the needs of businesses and employees alike.
The future of remote work
As the benefits of remote work are many, it is obvious that the future will witness many changes, such as investment in digital infrastructure, innovative work modules, and freeing up office spaces. For many companies, having employees work from the comfort of their homes will require the reinvention of many policies and processes. As most organisations are going to allow a significant part of their workforce to work remotely, cybersecurity and the means to protect data will be a matter of great concern. Employees need to learn to communicate online and run meetings online efficiently while also collaborating with others by learning to use different IT tools.
It should also be noted that much manual or physical labour, as well as jobs that make use of fixed equipment, cannot be done remotely. Professions that require physical attention, such as health care, jobs that use laboratory equipment, operating machinery, and others, are examples of occupations that cannot transition to remote work anytime soon. In direct contrast to these, activities like communication, gathering and processing information, counseling, teaching, coding, writing, and the like can be entirely performed remotely.
Remote Work: Pros and Cons
Let us explore the pros and cons of remote working.
The benefits of working from home include the following:
Employers can hire talent regardless of their geographical location and other limitations.
Employees keep their full pay, including perks and/or benefits.
Employers and employees can both save time and money by eliminating commuting and renting office space.
Greater work autonomy and fewer work interruptions can positively impact the productivity of employees.
Employees can enjoy flexibility and can customize their working styles and hours.
This will be greatly beneficial for employees with disabilities.
The operational hours for some companies can be extended if needed.
There is less need for office space or parking lots.
Lower carbon footprint due to less commuting
There are also cons to working remotely:
Whether you are the boss or an employee, every human being is likely to feel isolated if they continue working from a distance and have fewer options to interact with other people. As social beings, we all need human interaction. A feeling of isolation is likely to strike most workers in a remote work set-up. Engagement is an issue when employees collaborate via email or virtual meetings to work and stay engaged. Some of the ways this can be handled include participation in virtual events and remaining active in virtual meetings, among others. Employers need to identify these key areas and work on them.
Distractions at home and losing work-life balance: Remote work cuts off the distractions of a regular workplace, but it gets substituted with a whole new range of distractions, which can include background noise, distractions from family, pets, kids, TV, and others. It would be highly beneficial if remote workers could arrange an isolated working space that could minimize such distractions.
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Will remote work increase in the future?
Yes, most employees are opting to work from home, and more employers are considering having half their workforce work remotely in the near future.
What are some of the challenges that remote workers might face?
Remote workers might face some challenges like home-specific distractions (family, kids, pets, etc.), a work-life balance while working from home, and a feeling of isolation from their colleagues.
Is remote work effective?
Most employers have confirmed that remote work is effective as employees find it easier to create their own workspace, and they can have more flexibility with their schedules than working in an office-based setup. The productivity levels of employees are not hampered while working remotely.