2020 has been one of the most influential years in recent history. The pandemic changed the landscape of many industries as we know it. But the most crucial insight about our work culture that Covid-19 unraveled is the rejuvenation of remote work. With strict guidelines to minimize personal interactions, working from home has been the only resort of operation for many businesses. While the pandemic has slowed down and the restrictions are being lifted, popular opinion has started to voice their contempt for mandatory office work. If we can turn our homes into offices overnight, people argue, then there should not be any problem continuing the practice post-pandemic. But the big corporations are finding it hard to swallow.
Remote work is not a very novel idea. The turn of the new millennium observed a growing number of companies, mostly operating in the technology sector, offering a flexible schedule to their employees. The concept was definitely popular amongst the start-ups, but it was never a norm as a business practice. Then, the global pandemic arrived. Organizations are forced to undergo a massive transition to accommodate themselves and their employees into virtual workspaces. The process required a lot of technical integrations, and those arrangements will continue to be in operation in the near future, making the entire workflow ready for remote handling. Companies are also not shy of personalizing these work-from-home opportunities to match their business requirements. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that their workforce could opt for working from home permanently. Another tech giant Facebook is also not far behind, with an estimation that nearly 50% of their employees will work remotely by 2030. Tata Consultancy Services, the flag bearer of the Indian IT industry, is predicted to have almost 75% of its employees working in a remote setup by 2025. Cryptocurrency exchange Coin base became a Remote-first Start-up allowing employees the option to work full time from flexible locations. The list is in no way comprehensive as a slew of companies are soon to follow the perks of Remote Work.
Let’s discuss what makes the option of working from home so lucrative for so many people. Lack of daily commute is undoubtedly the biggest boon of working remotely. Numerous studies have shown the significant saving of productive time and money when commute time is cut down to zero. The minutes saved avoiding the rush hour traffic can be put into actual work, which would allow the employees to enjoy a better work-life balance. The flexibility of working in your homely attire would ultimately result in the sense of freedom from mundane work routines that can act as a big motivator. Research has shown employee output showed a boost in productivity equal to almost 8 work hours compared to the traditional working group when introduced to remote working. Combining these factors presents a solid case in favor of the Work from Home setup from an employee’s perspective. More than 80% of responders in a survey amongst people who have tried work from home acknowledged that remote working is a top priority for them.
Employers are also inclined to promote as the arrangements seem to bear fruit for their ventures too. A reduced operation cost is perhaps the biggest non-personnel-related reason companies are so eager to adopt remote working. Renting office locations and maintaining parking spaces cost a big chunk of the company budget each year. Accommodating a large number of employees puts stress on the financial and resources allocation, and allowing remote work relieves the pressure significantly. Fewer employees in the office would require a small office space and can potentially save the organization thousands of dollars.
But every coin has a flip side, and remote work is no exception. There are valid concerns related to the effective implementation of the work culture. Omission of personal connection amongst the employees poses a big threat to the inclusiveness and trust companies strive to foster. A regular in-person interaction assists the coworkers to know others better, forming a natural synchronization that has long been proved as a catalyst of higher productivity in shared workplaces. Multinationals with massive offices are also obligated to make better use of all the real estate they have under lease, and no management wants to squander money for empty desks. Limited modes of communication also restrict networking opportunities; thus employees run into a risk of getting out of touch with the industry completely. On the personal front, distractions during working hours and the absence of social presence are critical issues remote workers face. Family and friends are not always helpful to create a workable environment, and jobs that require precision and accuracy can vouch for the problems caused by unwanted distractions. Social isolation is another aspect that goes against the proposition.
A direct comparison between the pros and cons of working from home would not offer us a definitive answer to the question. Work is an integral part of our social construct, and it will take time to welcome the new norms of working from home at the highest potential. But the goal is to provide everyone the opportunity to choose what is best for them and act accordingly. According to a Gartner group poll done in April 2020, 74% of 317 organizations aim to implement more remote work indefinitely post-COVID-19. Hence, it is high time to recognize that remote work is going to be the preferred mode of working, and all of us should put our best effort into making the transition as smooth as possible.