During the pandemic, millions of people have been working remotely to respect social distancing, and experts predict business as unusual can become the future of work at least for the companies that don’t have to tie their employees to their offices. The number of people working from home has doubled during the last crisis, and it’s likely the phenomenon to trigger a permanent increase in remote working after the pandemic.
At present, an overwhelming number of people are working remotely without harming their productivity. 98% of people surveyed would prefer to work from home for the rest of their careers, especially if the employer would provide them with the needed support and resources. Nowadays, people no longer need to meet the executive in person to accept a job, in fact, 73% of them would sign up to a new position without meeting the team they have to work with face-to-face.
Considering the advancement of technology and high levels of performance, some large companies say their employees don’t have to commute to work again.
What are the long-term effects of the crisis on the workplace, when the pandemic is over?
Even before the pandemic forced people to work from home, there was a lot of discussion on the future of employment and the implications the advancement of tech brings. The conclusion was clear, there is no pre-determined future for work, and people have to shape it to fit their needs.
But for many countries, the future has arrived sooner than they’re prepared for, and they had to shift to remote working to keep their employees safe and operations running. The easy transmission of COVID-19 made companies change dramatically the way they operate because keeping their employees together in a crowded space would’ve meant encouraging contamination.
Remote virtual meetings are now commonplace, and time tracking portals like the Timesheets Portal UK have become mandatory for companies that promote home work.
When the restrictions are lifted, the question is will business as unusual become the new normality? Some well-known brands in developed countries have already said they prepare for a pilot scenario called remote teleworking, to allow their employees to work at home. Employees will commute to their offices only if they choose to do so.
Is this change good?
Many think it’s a cause to celebrate for the planet and people because it cuts down pollution. But to believe this is the end of office work is wrong. Even in high-income countries, less than 30% of people can work remotely, but it doesn’t mean all will choose to do it. It’s all up to companies and workers to adapt practices and reap the benefits of this forced experience, to get the best outcome.
Let’s not forget that many people lost their jobs, as a result of the pandemic that brought many industries to a standstill. While some will return to their workplace once the pandemic is over, the quality of work will remain a fundamental problem, in particular in crowded areas where safety and health are at risk.
Even if 93% of employees would keep working at home for some time if the employer allows, many of them prefer to come back to their office in the future because of the struggles remote work is associated with. 22% of people find it challenging to unplug after work, 20% feel lonely, 10% cannot focus because of distractions, and 8% cannot stay motivated.
People have moved towards remote locations during the crisis
Even before the pandemic, many people preferred to resign their day jobs and become freelancers. Because the Millennials are an age group that chooses to work in the comfort of their homes or while travelling, some companies have adopted flexible work policies. Before the pandemic, 25% of people worked from home at least half a day per week. During the lockdown, 50% of employed or self-employed people worked remotely.
To respect social distancing and stop the spread of the virus, many have travelled towards remote locations. They moved back to their parents or grandparents homes, relocated to the countryside or less populated regions. A drop in their revenue also forced them to reconsider their accommodation. People no longer afford to pay high rents, and they choose to save money by moving back to their parents’ houses to create an emergency fund and support each other financially.
What should happen next?
The degree of employees’ trust in the measures the employers take to keep workplaces safe impacts the return to work. Companies must collaborate with trade unions to find out what their employees need to feel safe at work.
From social distancing to protocols, testing, and monitoring, all these measures are needed when the pandemic is ending, and people must return to their workplaces.
For the ones in the gig economy like food delivery and ride-hailing, work is more than a place; it’s an activity they perform to earn an income. The COVID-19 had revealed that some people don’t have a choice between working at home or coming to the office because if they chose safety, they would face income insecurity. Some workers have inadequate access to sick leave and unemployment insurance benefits. So, in the future, the world has to ensure everyone work is done in safe conditions, and people really have a choice.
It’s predicted a 60% decline in the earnings of 1.6 billion people in the business as unusual in the first months of the pandemic. Many people simply cannot work remotely and face the risk of losing their job. While some countries have adopted systems to reduce the decline in earnings, many still cannot ensure adequate hygiene for workers.
Companies must evaluate the effectiveness of the shift to home work and their ability to handle data security issues because when people work at home, they don’t have the same security solutions in place on their personal devices to protect sensitive information. In many cases, infrastructure is needed for people to work effectively from home.
Looking to the future of work, the digital environment may become the new normal for companies operating in developed countries.