The Covid-19 outbreak has given humanity reason to pause and reflect. As the economy stumbles, entrepreneurs and job seekers alike are exploring the potential advantages of alternative work arrangements. Chief among those alternatives is a growing trend of workers telecommuting from home offices.
To many business owners it is now obvious that remote work presents a good opportunity, especially for firms within the tech sector. Many workers also like the arrangement, and are eager for Work From Home (WFH) options to become permanent.
The future is both local and global
“The new electronic independence re-creates the world in the image of a global village.”
– Marshall McLuhan
When it comes to the tools and workflows of a typical workday, people are more independent than ever. Technological advances allow professionals to be productive on their own, while entrepreneurs take advantage of online services for human resource management.
More businesses are reaching out to professionals around the world. Even bootstrapping startups conduct business with a wide distribution of stakeholders. Political boundaries are becoming less important, as workers and their employers connect across borders and entire oceans. By their very nature, WFH initiatives encourage workplace inclusion.
Remote work could potentially become the single biggest factor among current trends in economic globalization. Employers within developed countries are increasingly interested in lowering costs by hiring gig workers who can telecommute from their homes within developing countries. Even closer to corporate home, a new harmony resonates between cost-cutting enterprises and local workers hoping to manage their lives more efficiently. For professionals who can be productive online, physical distance is becoming less relevant.
The new suburbanization?
Professionals are once again migrating toward the suburbs. This is affecting office space inside central business districts, with an increasing number of companies planning to downsize their square footage footprint. The downtown office might not be dead yet, but it is certainly suffering from body blows—and even long-term leases might not benefit landlords much if this current recession forces tenants into insolvency.
For those who do embrace telecommuting, there are cultural barriers to overcome. Few professionals have ever worked from home, and their understanding of it doesn’t extend much farther than dreams of spending each day in pyjamas.
Remote work—the cyber nuts & bolts
Transitioning toward a remote job can be a challenge. Most business managers and most workers are unaccustomed to engaging colleagues only through text, email, telephone or videoconferencing.
One question that remote management “noobs” often have is how to maximize the productivity of employees working from home. Prescient employers might provide remote working equipment, or they might encourage a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) work culture enabled through technology stipends. Managers might implement online tracking systems or resolve to touch base with their reports multiple times per day. For each of these options, both worker and manager count on secure and reliable technology to support a productive schedule.
Technology is important, but it is no panacea. Soft skills remain a vital element of effective business management and worker collaboration. Sometimes remote doesn’t fit; employers must have a backup plan for such occasions, because there will always be a few professionals who can’t or won’t work anywhere but a formalized office setting.
The comfort of home—an appropriate professional setting?
Some people dislike the idea of having no place of employment outside the home. They want to keep their work life and their personal life separate. There is also some concern among traditional workers that telecommuting keeps them out of sight and out of mind. While uncommon, it is possible that employers will consider remote workers as outsourced contractors who are easily replaced. Some WFH employees respond to such potential job insecurity with communicative overcompensation.
Among telecommuters, feelings of disconnection and isolation are common. Almost half of surveyed remote workers reported that their mental health is a big concern.
Advantages of working from can be summed up as:
Little to no commute
Relaxed dress code
Improved work/life balance (for some)
Opportunity to keep computer skills current
Distance from toxic coworkers
Remote work’s disadvantages include:
Being (or feeling) out of the loop
Adverse work/life balance (for some)
Communicating at odd hours with colleagues across the globe