By Sam Ancer
With the World Health Organisation (WHO) announcing the pandemic status of SARS-COV-2 on 11 March 2020, many announcements of lockdown regulations around the world were made in response. Businesses had to change their operation procedures overnight. Remote work environments soon became the new norm, as businesses hoped to carry on operations while maintaining physical distancing.
Remote working involves employees working outside of the office, usually at their homes, using the internet and telecommunications to maintain contact. Remote working had been on the rise pre-pandemic for a variety of reasons, which we will discuss below, but the pandemic drastically accelerated the process. Over a year has passed since the announcement of the pandemic and we have a bounty of information on the benefits and the drawbacks of remote work.
Benefits of Remote Work
Working remotely has plenty of positives for both workers and the companies that employ them. From cutting costs to more free time, everyone gains some benefit from working from home.
1: More Free Time
Most workers enjoy being able to work from home, particularly if they have flexible schedules. This is usually because workers can now devote less time to commuting or waiting for responses in the office. This means they can feel more fulfilled and have more say in where they live since they do not have to be concerned with staying close to their place of work anymore.
2: Greater Productivity
Since people are now not spending an active part of their morning commuting, they can begin their work without any mental energy wasted. They also have fewer distractions caused by colleagues and other people within their working environments. This along with being more relaxed in a home environment generally leads to greater levels of productivity in individual workers. Overall it means that offices can produce more provided they are able to mitigate some of the shortcomings surrounding remote work.
3: Lower Costs
With fewer workers in office spaces and more at home or working remotely, fewer operational expenses are incurred as a result. Day-to-day expenses like water, electricity, and cleaning are now handled by employees on their own, meaning the business incurs fewer costs. However employers are not the only ones who benefit this way, workers can have lower cost of living through reduced transport or rental costs, since their location will not impact their ability to work anymore, workers can choose to live in areas with lower costs of living without having to deal with transportation.
Drawbacks of Remote Work
While there are plenty of measurable benefits from working remotely, the drawbacks are also there and must be accounted for if a business is going to successfully maintain a remote working office.
1: Maintaining an Office Culture
Without direct oversight and face-to-face communications, it can be challenging to maintain the values and ethics that your company maintains as part of its mission. Employers must be willing to make the effort to reinforce these ideas through communication and team building. This essentially means that the management team will need to put in more work for the results the company would want.
2: Investment Expenses
In order to successfully work from home, companies will need to make sure that their workers have access to the equipment they need to do their job. It is not reasonable to expect workers to make these investments themselves so the business will have to foot the bill. However, while the initial investment may be expensive, plenty of businesses have been able to recoup costs through the savings made and increased productivity. It has been reported that businesses in the United States have saved up to $11 000 as a result of remote working practices.
While platforms and apps like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams have provided excellent ways to ensure quick, inexpensive, and effective communications, teams that need agile methods struggle with remote working environments, because micro-bottlenecks develop at any point of communication. While each instance does not take long, the collective bottleneck at each point will add up and can lead to lower instances of communication. However, this can be mitigated through more hands-on management, with a specific investment of time in ensuring communication goes swiftly. Have regular team meetings that are 30 minutes long, wherein everyone who has any outstanding issues can be addressed quickly and effectively.
Remote Work More than a Year on from Covid-19
It is clear that the Sars-Cov-2 pandemic has changed the working landscape forever. However, as the world adjusts to the “new-normal” it is up to business leaders to determine how they should structure their teams. While remote work can be useful in teams where immediate agility is not a concern, for higher-paced production, managers should examine what’s best for them and their team. As time goes on, greater investment in remote working tools can also account for some of its existing flaws, so it may be worthwhile for employers to invest now, so they can benefit when systems are fully developed.