May 28, 2021
Of the many ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped our everyday life, one of the most impactful changes has been remote work. In the early months of 2020, countless businesses across the globe sent their employees to work from home ‘temporarily’. No one imagined at that point that ‘temporary’ had the potential to become ‘permanent’.
At the time, bosses and office managers were observing the funds and efforts it took to keep offices sanitized and employees safe and decided that it wasn’t a good use of time and resources. So, those who could, started working remotely, while others went on furlough, and many became completely unemployed. Many retail businesses shut down, and business travel was practically cancelled.
Having conference calls from your living room in house slippers was the new norm. Things that were once unimaginable became mundane.
Noise pollution was decreased, traffic jams disappeared, and companies were able to save millions on operational costs such as rent and utility bills. Countless businesses began to realize that high-end office spaces were unnecessary. Perhaps it was time to move on from the outdated office practices and embrace the transformation.
An additional incentive has been the positive environmental impact. Millennials and Gen Zers are extremely environmentally conscious, for the most part. For them, remote work also means a step towards the reduction of air and water pollution. Today, being a company that contributes positively to environmental causes is a most commendable action that can even be a deciding factor in the customer’s eyes.
It’s been about a year since people started moving into the ‘home offices’, bringing to light inequality that many people didn’t even know existed. The stark difference between those being able to do their job remotely and those who don’t have the remote work option became very prominent. While administrators, web designers, content writers, educators, and many other professionals, were cosy in their apartments working in PJs, restaurant workers, janitors, hotel employees, and others lost their jobs altogether, creating an enormous socio-political divide.
At the same time, now that roughly 1.78 billion people have been vaccinated globally and the hospitality industry is slowly reopening, some countries are having a hard time finding employees. One such example is the USA, where the citizens have been benefiting from $1,400 stimulus cheques. Many Americans don’t want to go back to work and expose themselves to risk if they are able to survive from the help they receive from the government.
Reporting for Duty
One of the biggest concerns that bosses and office managers had to confront was ensuring that their staff is diligent, even from home. With the help of specialized software, bosses could see what time their employees clocked in, how long they worked, and even monitor their screens to see what they were working on. For the employees, it seemed like respite, so giving up a bit of freedom for the sake of being able to work from serene locations far away from stressed cities seemed fair.
On the other hand, many other remote workers succumbed to depression and anxiety during the pandemic. This is especially true for young single people; they were not able to see friends, family, or anyone else. Taking away office interactions and forcing them to stay alone within four walls all day was not a favourable solution for them.
Almost halfway through 2021, and people seem to have mixed feelings about remote work. Many acknowledge that it can get lonely and demotivating. Still, it is also very convenient for employees who don’t have to commute to work, eat out every day, wake up super early to get ready, and so on. The option to get a workout before clocking in or cook a proper meal for lunch became feasible.
As the pandemic is slowly wrapping up, it appears that most people who’ve been working from home would now prefer to have a choice of whether they work at home or from the office. A lot of people also say that flexibility would be ideal, allowing them to work remotely a few days a week while going into the office the rest of the time. This proves the point that various studies have been pointing out; face-to-face brainstorming is necessary for generating new ideas.
Facebook, Amazon, Coinbase, Google, Hubspot, and many other conglomerates have already said that a significant portion of their workforce will have the option to work remotely, but only time will show whether it will be as productive as the companies hope.
With vaccination rollouts, herd immunity is becoming ever more feasible, and expressions like ‘can’t wait to get back to normal’ are dominating all communication channels. But the question is, will we ever get back to ‘normal’, and even more importantly, are we sure we even want that?
The changes that came about because of the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly shape our future. There’s just no way of saying if it will be for the better or worse. But if there’s one thing we do know, it’s that you can’t know if you don’t try.