“Remote working is the new normal” – How true is this statement right now?
As countries around the world enter various stages of unlocking, a return to physical offices might be somewhere close on the horizon. But that doesn’t mean that remote working is a thing of the past. Several companies including Google, Uber, Twitter, Reuters, Facebook, and Amazon provide employees with the option to work from home across 2020. America’s leading retailer, REI, went as far as to sell the company’s brand-new eight-acre campus as it announced remote working to be an “engrained, supported, and normalised model.”
The answer to our question lies somewhere in the middle. 100% remote work will give way to hybrid workplaces, where the majority of employees continue to operate remotely, even as a rotational workforce returns to the office in shifts. This could place enormous strain on a company’s collaboration infrastructure, as a hybrid workforce will have hybrid expectations, approaches, and needs.
There’s no denying that WFH has its benefits. In India, for example, the average employee is saving nearly two hours every day that would be otherwise spent on commute. It is easier to maintain work-life balance (in most cases) as you get to spend quality time with the family. Remote work also opens up new opportunities for professionals who cannot relocate but want to aim for a job of their choice.
However, after a while, the seams with WFH will start to show, as Apple cheekily suggested in its new ad:
For those of us unaccustomed to working out of the office, there is a very real psychological, infrastructural, and effort cost to switching to WFH. For others in industries like hospitality, tourism, and healthcare, WFH is next to impossible. In Q3 of 2020, it is vital that companies take stock of the impacts of the last few weeks and pivot accordingly. This might mean:
An inevitable fallout of WFH is the blurred lines between work and pleasure. This is both physical (the same device and home space used for both purposes), and intangible (the same time and efforts allocated to both purposes). Unlike the traditional 9-to-5, employees are constantly split between two worlds.
Companies must now realign the 9-to-5 model to emerging needs – like implementing the right to disconnect. Several countries across Europe are in the process of legislating on WFH, and hopefully, these will make life easier for remote workers. In Spain, a “right to flexible schedules” is in the works, along with employers having to refurbish WFH expenses. Greece is working on a policy that would protect employee privacy while working from home.
A recent HBR survey revealed an essential crack in the remitted working model: 41% of managers aren’t sure if remote employees can stay motivated. Without in-person communication, it isn’t easy to gauge someone’s competency, understand what drives them, and trust their ability to achieve targets. That’s where digital communication channels must intervene if we are to make remote or hybrid workplaces genuinely sustainable.