REMOTE WORKING: A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE OF THE OFFICE SETUP
Two months into the pandemic, a couple of friends called to get insights about remote working. After a week of trying to work at home, there were too many distractions, from entertainment, their kids, and food (yes, food!) at arm’s reach, and they simply couldn’t focus on tasks at hand. I have minimal experience working on-site, but it’s a challenge I am ready to pick up any day. My advice to remain focused, and plan their day ahead wasn’t working— They needed some sort of supervision to stay focused.
According to a recent survey done on 317 CFOs, more than 70 percent of companies in the U.S plans to shift at least five percent of their previously on-site employees to permanent remote positions post-pandemic. About 23% of these companies plan to turn about 20 percent of their previous on-site workforce to permanent telecommuters—a digital revolution of sorts.
Sadly, those looking to get back to work stations, cubicles, office chairs, and free coffee, working from home could be the new norm. When COVID-19 fast struck, most employers had to let their employees work from home. Twitter, Nationwide, Square, among other global leading companies, announced plans to have their workforce work from home forever!
This got me thinking, was working from home that hard pre-COVID-19?
What Are the Stats on Remote Working?
I am sorry to say this, but where I come from, individuals who work from home are never taken seriously. You are either doing customer care, transcription, or writing for a few cents to the hour with zero benefits — which amounts to slave labor.
Looking into the remote working statistics in developed countries like the U.S, there’s a 160% spike in individuals working from home from 2005 to 2017. Remote jobs are no longer support roles, but more in the Education, Medical and Health, Sales, IT, and Computer sectors. Employees working remotely also reported higher job satisfaction, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). With this kind of argument from working remotely, why aren’t more people happy about working remotely?
Is Remote Working Effective?
A decade ago, most companies would close shop if a pandemic of this magnitude hit, and wouldn’t have given a thought about letting their workers work remotely. One problem most of my friends encountered working from home was a loss of productivity. It was complicated to hit their milestones without supervision by team leaders and supervisors, which was quite puzzling to a seasoned remote worker like me.
A study by Airtasker on the effectiveness of remote working done on more than 1000 permanent employees, half of whom were remote discovered that remote workers were far more productive than their on-site counterparts.
The study made the following conclusions:
- Remote workers work more hours than on-site employees by 1.4 more days and 17 days in a year.
- Remote workers take longer breaks on average compared to in-office employees.
- Office workers are more unproductive 37 minutes in a day, not including lunch breaks compared to remote workers who are not productive for only 27 minutes.
- About 15 percent of remote workers reported that they got distracted from work by their boss, which is less than 22 percent of on-site employees.
While these stats are encouraging for both employers and employees to adopt a home-based program, individuals who work from home report higher stress levels as well as finding work-life balance compared to their on-site counterparts.
Why the Sudden Increase in Remote Working?
Remote working has been on the rise pre-COVID-19, and all this was possible because of the tech boom. The advancement of technology and the introduction of off-site tools and devices such as the cloud have significantly contributed to the rising popularity of working remotely.
According to a survey conducted by PGi, 91 percent of remote workers were offered company tools such as laptops, 76 percent had access to company data, and 75 percent used web conferencing tools such as Skype and Zoom.
A couple of years ago, supervisors needed to walk desk to desk or department to department just to check on productivity or even collaborating on a document. Today, there is software that tracks time, productivity, team collaboration from anywhere in the world.
Shifting attitudes about tasks
According to a study by PWC, millennials, born between 1980 and 1995, are now getting into employment, and are the shapers of work culture around the world for the foreseeable future. By 2025, the millennial generation will make up to 75% of the entire workforce of the world. This new workforce comes with entirely new expectations about the nature of work, how, when, and where it can be done.
It’s evident that the millennial generation will have a strong influence on the way they work. PWC discovered that millennials valued a work-life balance and flexibility as attractive perks when looking for a job. To them, time doesn’t necessarily mean money, but instead limited resources spent wisely, and timed averagely.
The Current State of Remote Working
Due to the tech boom and the easy availability of internet access, remote working has become a more acceptable practice in the office, globally. One of the perks of working remotely is you don’t need to confine yourself in your living room or balcony — remote employees can work in coffee shops, parks, or co-working spaces.
Remote working has given birth to a new breed of remote workers, the Digital Nomads (I’ll do a blog about this). They travel the world to exotic destinations while maintaining their career objectives.
So, why are some businesses reluctant to pursue this shift?
Simple, some employers feel their employees will be less productive without direct supervision. Others haven’t invested in off-site tools to support their remote workers. Other companies have dipped their toes into remote working but have a strict policy their employees need to check in one or two days in a week.
The future is remote working, with AI, virtual and augmented reality, offsite communication tools, live tracking, etc. Face to face meetings will be less preferential. Transitioning and managing a home-based workforce is no doubt a daunting task, but with the right employee attitude and tools, the process is seamless.