Founder at Reputio and tech evangelist.
Among the myriad changes of a global pandemic, the outstanding single, by far, is remote work. In a conspicuously social world, working at home in isolation was strange and difficult for many at the beginning. It might not be surprising to be asked whether you have a job, or, a personal favorite question of mine: “What do you actually do for a living?” It is increasingly hard for people to reconceptualize the idea of work when you’re doing it in the comfort of your own home.
However, as the dangers of gathering in enclosed spaces became increasingly apparent, employees gradually understood the merits of working from the relative safety of home. Employers now understand the benefits of having their staff operating remotely as many see productivity increase or expenses fall.
According to one survey from Owl Labs, around 70% of full-time employees in the U.S are working from home during the current Covid-19 pandemic. What is more, even after the pandemic is over, half of them will seek jobs that offer remote work, with 23% of them being willing to take a pay cut over 10% if they can work remotely some of the time.
With tech firms, financial services and insurance investing in remote work accessories, it appears they do not intend to return to the pre-pandemic work settings. Moreover, young people working in more progressive organizations are already into remote working from different parts of the world, using Airbnbs and more specialized work-life abodes.
The fact is, being able to work remotely depends significantly on a blend of sectors of employment, occupation and activity. According to a McKinsey & Company study, the U.K. has the most capabilities for remote work. It also found that developed economies are able to have their workforce committing 28%-30% of their working hours to remote work, without any loss of productivity. And so, the hassle of dealing with unreliable public transit is comfortably replaced by videoconference calls, and instead of camaraderie in the office, there is a quiet time for reflection and quality output at home.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of working from home, as well as how employers can improve the issues surrounding remote work for their employees.
Remote work makes some employees worry about career progression, and nearly 60% of managers feel remote work is robbing them of opportunities for informal leadership development, according to the Owl Labs survey. This is where remote team-building efforts and one-on-one discussions on career development are critical for the well-being of employees and the long-term growth of the organization.
In fact, I’ve observed that virtual discussions and insightful conversations have led to the collapse of “closed doors” and the inaccessibility of the upper echelons of power in organizations. It has allowed for a more open line of communication, as the hierarchy is demolished by conference calls and wordy, formal emails replaced by texts through messenger apps. This can allow CEOs to gain insight into the inner workings of their employees’ minds, and in turn, employees and interns can feel more integrated into the company instead of feeling like a disposable shadow. On the whole, I’ve noticed that organizations have become much more streamlined and are more in sync, which offers better productivity and efficiency in the entire workflow.
Even as remote working seemingly leaves room for slacking, many employees working from home find it difficult to break away from work at the end of the day. Unlike working in an office where the end of the workday is heralded by closing your computer and going home, remote working often leads to employees working more hours than a normal working day. As it happens, on average, remote employees in the pandemic are working 26 extra hours every month, amounting to almost one extra day every week, according to the Owl Labs survey.
One way that employers can try to combat this is by optimizing work-tracking software that helps employees stay on track as well as offers them insight into how long they have been working so that they clock out on time. Instead of benching on employees learning when to close the computer and turn their attention to family time and self-care, industry leaders should set an example rather than taking advantage of the current not fixed timetable.
In some cases, remote work, especially when completed in a timely and effective manner, can help increase collaboration and enhance job satisfaction for employees. But, on the flip side, when work submitted does not make the grade and shows signs of employee distraction amid remote working challenges, trust falters and employers might consider monitoring employee activity through the workday.
As illustrated above, I believe work-tracking software should be used to benefit the employee instead of surveillance, which can not only make employees feel uncomfortable but could also degrade trust and cause malcontent. To prevent this from happening, have all employees participate in the work-tracking pipeline instead of just a select few that have not been showing up in terms of work quality.
In a podcast, business magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates recently said that in the pre-pandemic business world, people worried that a client would be offended by a virtual meeting. But, in a post-pandemic world, people will have second thoughts about the necessity of physical meetings. As virtual meetings become a normal business event, the technology will also improve.
While there are those who believe the pandemic has caused nothing but chaos and destruction, I believe that from within chaos and destruction, the strong will persevere and create a better tomorrow. In many ways, it is a catalyst pushing the world forward.
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Founder at Reputio and tech evangelist. Read Anton Lucanus’ full executive profile here.