The year 2020 brought unprecedented challenges all around. Our work world, as we knew it, experienced a tectonic shift. Companies worldwide were left with little choice but to adopt remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, technological aids such as video conferencing software, virtual recruitment platforms, and other collaboration tools made the transition smooth.
The pandemic normalised remote work – a far cry from the days when it was frowned upon or grudgingly allowed under pressing conditions such as having a sick person in the family to care for. Remember that time in 2013 when the CEO of a leading web services provider banned working from home and ordered all employees to work from office as part of an “era of collaboration”? Back then, it left several employees of that company annoyed and industry leaders perplexed. But now that the pandemic has forced remote working, both employers and employees have learnt to make it work.
A win-win situation
One of the most popular benefits of remote working, for employees, has been the elimination of the drudgery of long office commutes which, in turn, helps save money and promotes better work-life balance. Studies have shown that in spite of employees dealing with the stress of a global health crisis, managing kids, homeschooling and other challenges, work productivity has remained stable or even increased for some companies.
Businesses have been able to reduce costs by reducing corporate real estate. Many companies are thriving in this environment of greater flexibility in hiring and are able to choose from, and tap into the best remote talent pool through virtual hiring.
Some employees have been able to change their place of stay and have moved to more affordable locations.
Not all roses though
However, remote work is certainly not without its pitfalls. While stable internet connectivity has proved to be a big challenge for many remote workers, from the employers’ point of view, innovation has taken a hit. The reason for this could be the absence of intense collaboration and face-to-face interaction when most employees are working from home. Not everyone is able to function optimally while working remotely. Organizations need to put in conscious effort to ensure that their staff feels connected with their colleagues, despite the isolation that they may feel.
How can we ensure that remote work really works?
With remote work being the new reality, some must-haves have become very clear. Clearly defined and quantified work goals are crucial to ensure that work goes on unhindered. Constant and open communication between remote workers is also extremely essential.
Businesses face the challenge of engaging remote employees in such a way that they feel connected and included in both day-to-day business and the larger picture of the company as a whole. Earlier, team events and even coffee breaks played a major role in fostering a sense of belonging in employees. These have now either stopped or moved online. Though virtual events might not be as effective as events at the office, yet they could help employees gain an insight into the work others are doing and also help in developing new work relationships.
What does the future look like?
Will the pandemic reshape our future and the way we live and work?
We might not go back to our old normal anytime soon. Organizations are, thus, starting to view remote work and access to a global talent pool as a given. Video hiring and virtual job fairs could become the new normal.
Slack’s Future Forum research of 4,700 knowledge workers found that most workers do not want to go back to the old way of working. Only around 12% want to return to full-time office work, and 72% want a hybrid remote-office model. Hence, we will see that some organizations will adopt a hybrid model to balance the efficiencies gained by remote work with the benefits of social interactions, creativity, and innovation generated by working in-person with others. Other companies who choose to go completely remote, will use video communications to maintain productivity and collaboration.
One thing has never been more clear: we are living in a world where distance is increasingly becoming irrelevant. Technology has been a great enabler to meet our challenges at a scale we never imagined!