Is Remote Working NOT the Future After All?
Lockdown has accelerated the inevitable: remote working is now here to stay. But does this mean that employers will offer full-on remote working after lockdown is over – and should they?
Remote workers tend to be more satisfied with their jobs and have better quality of life – which, in turn, makes them better at their work.
The cost of commuting, which is not accessible to everyone, can cut businesses off from their potential talent pool. We know that emergencies and unpredictable events affect workers’ willingness to commute, but many workers live in a near-constant state of emergency because they’re living paycheck to paycheck. By eliminating the barrier of the commute, you expand the talent pool.
The limitations imposed by the pandemic have exposed both the possibilities and the limitations of remote work. The takeaway is that remote work can be very beneficial, but it has to be handled correctly. There has to be a lot of connectivity between remote workers and the rest of the team; employers need to take the lead in setting employees up with the technology they need.
This raises a further question: if everyone starts working remotely, will that technology be scalable? Making that possible could be a huge opportunity for tech companies, but also a huge security challenge as systems are flooded with new users.
There’s also the question of how fast we can do it. Historically, 90% adoption of a new technology can take 8-26 years – and with many organisations forced to focus on rebuilding after the pandemic, more automation may not be a top concern for them. But some will realise that automation is the only possible way for them to manage demand on a post-pandemic budget and with a pared-down workforce.
Having been forced to embrace the risk and expense of adapting rapidly to remote working, businesses now have the advantage that it’s a known quantity. By sticking with it now, they can ensure that they’re prepared for the next crisis. This one has shown us that focusing on upward growth at the expense of resilience is eventually bound to be a false economy.
As for the workers’ expectations in all this, while 68% said they were at least as productive working from home, and 77% praised their bosses’ handling of the transition, almost half expected them to go back to limiting flexible working after the end of lockdown, according to a survey of 1000 workers by people analytics company Visier.
A similar-sized study by US company Airtasker found that productivity was indeed higher among remote workers, but that it came at the cost of additional anxiety and difficulties with work-life balance. Cultivating close friendships at work, inside or outside the office, appeared to offer an antidote to these issues – so creating and sustaining a strong team culture will be vital if large-scale, long-term remote working is to succeed.