During the last decade, the work environment has slowly been gearing toward remote work. Companies have been adopting softwares and services that allow their processes to run anytime and anywhere. Even though freelancers have been working remotely for a long while, employees were still not ready for the virtual workplace. At least, that’s what we used to think.
The COVID-19 pandemic clearly accelerated the transformation from the traditional workplace to a distributed one. Offices emptied and employees discovered new daily routines. This radical transformation has been maintained for over a year. And now that we seem close to the end of the tunnel, it’s obvious that remote work is here to stay.
What workers gain from working remotely
One only has to check social media and read through the #RemoteWork tag to reach the obvious conclusion. Returning to the office is not something workers are looking forward to. Statistics can vary from country to country, but the general sentiment is that most employees don’t want to go back to the previous work model.
Even though there is no doubt that the pivot to working from home has been challenging, there is no doubt that it was worth it. No more endless commutes, no more traffic jams, no more needless interactions, no more meetings that should have been emails and, above all else, no more constant counter-productive supervision.
The hours that workers used to lose in commutes are now dedicated to family and meaningful social interactions. Professionals in distributed workplaces can now take up passion projects, take time to have fun, take care of their physical and mental well-being. They can take the time to do “nothing”.
What employers gain from distributed workplaces
Companies have long been unwilling to adopt remote work, mainly because they feared that without supervision, their employees would lose productivity. After a year working remotely, we can conclude that these fears were largely unfounded. Sure, on this topic there is no definitive answer yet. For some institutes, a 100% distributed workplace could lead a loss of productivity in the long run. While other experts have observed an increase in productivity (McKinsey & Company).
All in all, a distributed workplace can be an opportunity for companies too.
- Saving on office space: if workers are not showing up, there is no need to rent big office spaces. Some companies will save 25%, 50% or even more if they adopt a “remote first” work ethic.
- Unbridled access to talents: if working remotely becomes the norm, then a company can hire anyone, no matter where they live. Recruiting talents from all over the world into the company or as freelancers is now a viable strategy.
- Asnychronous processes: it can be a challenge or an asset for the company. Flexible work schedules will allow workers to focus on goals instead of time spent “at work”.
Not to forget that remote work will reduce the need for middle managers, endless meetings, work related distractions, etc. Workers have consistently been saying that working from home has allowed them to reclaim their lives and devise the perfect remote work formula for themselves. However, it would be too naive to think that working remotely only has advantages.
Remote work may not be all it’s cracked up to be
Remote work shows clear promise. But like any other revolution, not everyone can benefit from it. The first obstacle to working remotely is the nature of the work itself. There are a number of occupations where the distributed workplace is an utopia. And a lot more where it will likely never happen.
Aside from that, we should not forget that working remotely implies a certain level of comfort on the worker’s end. A young worker who just rejoins the workforce and has less than ideal living accommodations (roommates for example), may not be in the best conditions to work remotely. Which is why there should always be nuance between remote work and working from home.
The same can be said for some steps of the professional journey. Mentoring Interns and trainees can be catastrophic while working remotely. The face-to-face interactions that help guide and orient trainee workers are lost with this work model.
In Conclusion :The perfect remote work formula
It stands to reason that the perfect remote work formula should take advantages and drawbacks into account. Even though there is no doubt that the virtual workplace is here to stay, nuance is needed. This policy has clearly been accelerated by COVID-19. But company leaders should take care not to end up being as tyrannical as the virus with their new policies.
The final word is yet to be uttered. When it comes to working remotely, it should be an open and flexible discussion between employees and their employers. Whether it’s an hybrid format or personal preference, every worker should be given the chance to find the formula that fits their needs. Everyone should win.
The illustrations on this page were provided by DrawKit.