COVID-19 and the Future of Remote Work

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As we all know, the world has been forced to adapt to this increasingly alarming situation of spread of COVID-19. The global workforce and economy has taken an massive hit with unemployment numbers higher than ever seen in history and the stock market reaching all time lows. This is not all doom and gloom, however, as there is always innovation and growth that come from hard times like this.

Many companies have employees working remotely when possible in order to keep the business afloat and to keep the spread of COVID-19 to a minimum. With social distancing orders possibly being in effect until at least the end of Q2 2020, both employers and employees must be ready to keep working from home through July/August. While this may feel like a endless nightmare to most; in the end we will get past this and begin the process of getting back to our normal day-to-day lives. But after working from home for so long, will employees even want to go back to the office?

A recent Forbes article asked the question: How do you see the medium and longer term impact on your business of the current ‘shift to remote’ of your clients because of COVID-19? “

Chris Dwyer, VP R&D for Ardent Partners had this to say: “Some business leaders call this the greatest remote work experiment in history. Many organizations are struggling with infrastructure, technology support, and seamless communications. Longer-term, this will fundamentally shift how business operates and many, many businesses are learning how impactful remote work can be on worker productivity. When this pandemic is behind us, corporate planning will include a laser-like focus on digital transformation, distributed teams, and a more agile culture.”

While business are working diligently to ensure a remote-work infrastructure is in place during the COVID-19 crisis, many employees working from home are quickly coming to the realization that the new work environment they have found themselves forced into is actually much preferable.  An article by the New York Times looked into the changing work dynamics of the younger generation and a growing desire for a shift in the traditional workplace expectations.

Pew Research Center asked which work arrangement would be most helpful to people, young people were more likely than older people to say the flexibility to choose when they worked. Of people 18 to 29, men were more likely than women to say it, and people without children at home were as likely as parents to say it.

In a survey of 11,000 workers and 6,500 business leaders by Harvard Business School and Boston Consulting Group, the vast majority said that among the new developments most urgently affecting their businesses were employees’ expectations for flexible, autonomous work; better work-life balance; and remote working. (Just 30 percent, though, said their businesses were prepared.)

With the benefits of more rest, comfortable surroundings and flexibility of breaks throughout the day, employees would be overall happier with their job and thus much more productive. Granted, there are some who will need more structure and attention in order to properly work from home without loss of productivity but this negative is outshined by the benefits that employee and even employers get from an increase of remote work.

The ability to have a large remote work force allows for small and medium business to grow at a more rapid rate since they no longer have to consider the high cost related to having more employees. In addition, many businesses are realizing the benefits of a project-by-project based workforce. To put it simply, only hiring people you need at the time for the project at hand. This means a higher demand for freelancers and independent contractors which can lead to long-term business relationship that will be a win-win for both parties.

Remote work has become essential in this crisis to ensure the stability of the global economy. As we move forward from this, the digital-forward business will thrive and work culture will never be the same again. Am I saying that from now on we all have to interact with work colleagues via Zoom and Slack? No. What I am saying is that going forward,  the 9-5 weekday work culture will begin to show its archaic nature. We must innovate and evolve the nature of the work environment to ensure high employee satisfaction and a more productive workforce.

Personally, I would be happy going in a few times a week to see people face-to-face and work in person. But for the majority of the time, I think we’re all perfectly happy working from home.

 

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