The world has changed; now more than ever, companies and businesses are choosing to keep their staff working from home. This is due, of course, to the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to keep staff and the community at large safe by employing social distancing measures (which are hard to achieve in a regular office space). However, post-Covid, it is becoming likely that companies are going to continue encouraging their staff to work remotely. For those eagerly awaiting a return to ‘normality’, this is bad news – but for those who enjoy the freedom of remote working and setting their own schedule for the day, the COVID-19 pandemic may well have changed the face of working as we know it.
The Benefits of Remote Working
Although many businesses were already choosing to work remotely where possible, COVID-19 forced companies to migrate to a working from home model very quickly. In the space of a few weeks, half of the world’s population were quarantined in their homes. Many businesses looked at first for short term solutions, which hindered the process of switching to a remote workforce. Now, long term solutions are being sought after; the implementation of remote working is, after all, more complicated than many organisations realised. The approach and change to corporate culture needs to be well structured and well thought out, with an equal investment of time and money. When done well, remote working is a new method for companies to reap significant benefits.
One of the top benefits of remote working is sustainability: there is less office space used, less commuting, fewer business trips and even less absences! This all makes sense: workers are less likely to take time off when they have a small illness than they are if they have to commute to the office and stay there for 8 hours. This means that employees are happier, and businesses are saving on expenses, trading in costly physical office space and using a virtual office address instead. Companies also benefit from remote working by having the flexibility to continue working during crises like COVID-19. This knowledge of how to continue functioning and even thriving as a business during unexpected events is invaluable. A new operational model based on higher flexibility and more agile ways of working is now in place, and maybe it’s here to stay.
The transformation of work into the digital realm will also enable older workers to continue working for longer on their own terms – since they can work from home, there is less need to retire and cut short their working life. Employers can also hire from a more diverse talent pool, choosing workers who live in different cities, countries or even continents if they should so wish. The need to live within commuting distance to an office will hugely benefit rural populations and companies, too, who can hire based on talent and suitability, rather than based on geographical proximity to their office location(s).
Moreover, remote working is environmentally sustainable: less commuting means less traffic and, ergo, less pollution in cities. There is no denying that the one silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic was that in many cities, from Delhi to Beijing, air pollution dropped significantly and respiratory illnesses dropped, too. Commuting to work, aside from when absolutely necessary, has improved the environment and respiratory health of many people. What’s more, travel restrictions and bans have crippled the aviation sector – which has again had a largely positive effect on the planet’s co2 gas emissions. We could be looking at a future of much less travelling for work and instead, employing video conferencing tools. This will also, at the end of the day, save businesses a lot on travel costs!
The shift to remote work has allowed companies to continue to operate during the worst global health crisis our generation has seen. Employees’ health and safety has been a top priority in the switch to working from home – which has been much easier by the huge wealth of technology we now have at our fingertips, from video conferencing solutions to real time document collaboration and editing in Google Docs. Employees are enjoying more time with their families than before, less time stuck in traffic, and more sleep! Work has, in a way, became more human-centred as businesses make accommodations for their workers having to home-school their children or look after their families.
However, the lines between working time and private time have also been blurred – this has caused an increase in stress and mental health problems. Some workers who live alone may be feeling a sense of isolation, a loss of identity and lack of purpose. This is due, largely, to the social value we place on work and the culture around going to an office space everyday – working from home in pyjamas has been hard for many people to adjust to. In time, as working from home becomes the new ‘normal’, it’s likely these ideas and values will change. But does “remote work” have to mean that employees are forced to work where they eat, sleep and relax? Not necessarily. If gives the workforce freedom to choose what’s right for them. They could travel the world with a laptop or use a co-working space if they crave the social life of an office.
This might sound too good to be true, and the voice in your head is probably saying “surely a business can’t give their workforce location independence and at the same time increase productivity and decrease cost”. Okay, maybe you’re right. But what if you’re not…?
Photo credits: Coworking London