The COVID-19 pandemic brought massive disruption to the global work economy in 2020. It hit us hard and quickly, and most of us had to change our lifestyle and perceptions when we began working from home. While working from home used to be a luxury offered by select firms, it is now the norm for the majority of companies. By 2025, it is expected that 70% of the workforce would work remotely at least five days each month. While 2020 may be seen as the year of remote work, it is actually just the beginning, since the trend is expected to continue in the years to come.
Many organizations have created a remote work arrangement due to COVID-19 lockdown constraints. Any task completed outside of a physical office facility is considered remote work. It can be done at home, in a coffee shop, or in a physical office. As they prepare for the post-pandemic future, several companies are adopting a hybrid virtual model that combines remote work with time spent in the office. Sharat Sharan, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of ON24 described it as a tsunami, “While we could see it coming, once it hit, the pandemic changed business overnight. And when a crisis like this happens, the pace of business is totally different. Weeks start to feel like months, and outcomes are impossible to predict.”
Under these circumstances, corporate executives had to evaluate deeper personal matters now than ever before in order to consolidate remote worker parents and provide the necessary technology for working remotely. Attitudes and practices have shifted as a result of these adjustments, and situations will never be the same again. Experts believe that we will not return to “normal,” but rather to “a new normal,” according to numerous sources citing work from home’s unexpected positives. But how is that possible?
In “Is the Future of Work Remote, Corporate Office, or Work from Anywhere Opens”, Jonathan Shultz and Chris Herd talked about their perspectives on the future of work. Jonathan perceives the future of work as a form of freedom wherein companies must prioritize the work environment that satisfies both parties – the company and the employees. Meanwhile, Chris said that “the future of work” is actually “the future of living.”
He acknowledges that our jobs are intrinsically connected to our personal lives and environments. Various individuals may harbor multiple viewpoints on what the future of employment will involve. And there is plenty of room for discussion on this. Companies must, however, be clear about how they perceive the future of employment. This is to avoid any possible misunderstanding among their personnel.
Working in an office may be the future of work for some companies. They may consider administrative jobs to be crucial to their development and growth. Nevertheless, these businesses must assess how a typical model will work in the context of the pandemic’s structural modification. Other companies are transitioning to remote work in response to this. Notwithstanding COVID-19, some companies understand that the workplace culture has deteriorated over time. As workplace spaces become more confined, possibilities for intense, concentrated work become less available. Working in the office becomes less productive while also maximizing resources.
During the pandemic, the restrictions on remote working dramatically obliterated, with lockdowns and social isolation hoisting an estimated 557 million people to work from home. Although the pandemic is diminishing, there’s little sign of working practices returning to pre-COVID ‘normal.’ While it is here to stay, remote working may not be as prevalent as it once was. Some companies are more hesitant to allow employees to work remotely than others. While some employees never want to return to work, others discover that working from home full-time is not for them.
As upsetting as the shift to remote work was during the Coronavirus outbreak, it was relatively minor compared to what’s to come, according to Adam Ozimek, a labor economist at Upwork. He claims that the next phase of remote work will reshape economies as more businesses adjust their policies to accommodate employees who have permanently transitioned to working from home, and as more workers relocate to locations they’ve always wished to pursue and couldn’t.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic, Ozimek and his Upwork colleagues have undertaken surveys on working remotely, and his prognosis is primarily based on the outcomes. Remote-first startups will figure out new asynchronous ways of working, making entirely remote work more feasible than it is now. And he believes that economic geography will change dramatically, with people being free to live wherever they wish, from hometowns to provinces.
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon described working remotely as “an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible”. In addition, McKinsey says: “The potential for remote work is highly concentrated among highly-skilled, highly educated workers in a handful of industries, occupations, and geographies.” If you’re a white-collar professional such as nurses, doctors, psychologists, engineers, lawyers, accountants, etc., working remotely possesses a significant impact on the execution and quality of work these professions should provide.
Cara Pelletier, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Belonging at Ultimate Software, asserts that many of the deeply personal adaptations we made to remote working could indeed be utilized to transform a much more altruistic workplace as we return to our offices: “The hope is that as our workforce evolves as a result of the crisis, we bring more empathy to our everyday connections.” If things stabilize for the majority of people, we must recall our WFH experience, which taught us that modifications allowed us to participate and produce equally. Our eventual return to the office will provide us with the opportunity to better assist one another, anticipate our teams’ needs, and pave the road for a more compassionate and human workplace.”
In this matter, both the employer and the employee should have an opinion. Employers can save costs on operations while also boosting performance. Employees can work when and where they wish, in a location that is most convenient for them. Working from home, contrary to popular notions, can be more productive than working in an office. However, roadblocks such as inadequate equipment and a lack of face-to-face engagement appeared overwhelming in the end, making any comprehensive transformation unviable.
Thus, Alice Hricak, Managing Principal of Corporate Interiors at Perkins and Will agrees. “When adequate home infrastructure and employer-provided tools are in place, the concern about privacy and the need for a dedicated space ‘at the office’ can be eliminated. This could include establishing teams that are better suited for working from home and finding a balance between working from home and physical office time. Employers will need to be patient with this flow back to the office, understand individuals’ work styles, and support their productivity. This greater understanding of bringing your ‘whole self to work’ and understanding personal circumstances will likely need to be considered and curated.”
Everyone and everything was affected by the pandemic. Instead of contesting the drastic effects, companies should make sure to significantly enhance their rules and capacities for this setting. Increasingly globalized markets and the transition to flexible work options will establish a full-day work cycle, similar to how we have a 24-hour news cycle. And, because everyone may work at their own pace, a business can expect to be open at all hours—without the expense of maintaining a physical location.
While no one knows what the future holds, it is almost guaranteed that remote working will become more common and will play a major role in the evolution of work. Several improvements will be required in the future of remote work, including investments in digital infrastructure and the release of office space. Allowing employees to work outside of the office will require many processes and rules to be re-considered in most businesses.
Working remotely may still be a work in progress in the long run, but it is undoubtedly something to consider as a viable option for the future of employment.
Written By: Frances De Guzman