What Gets Lost in the Remote Work Debate?
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The world of remote work has witnessed drastic and sudden changes at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these significant transformations haven’t been the same for everyone.
For some, the commodity of remote work has really been a game-changer on an upward trend to prosperity. Those who could manage work at home have thrived while not having to commute, eat out or deal with numerous office-related hindrances. The majority have reported that they have increased productivity and decreased expenses.
On the other hand, not everyone has found this situation favorable. Was this transition as easy for the employers as it was for some of the employees? How has the change in workplace psychology changed the individual at home behind the camera? Is saving money on commuting truly better than working in a busy but supportive environment?
So many questions, so many points of view on the matter. Let’s look at what has got lost in this ongoing remote work debate, especially now, in yet another transition period.
The Employees’ Point of View
About a third of the US workers have expressed the desire to stay fully remote. Furthermore, 25% of US workers have stated that they would quit their jobs if they couldn’t continue with the remote work. Close to 50% of questioned employees said that they would be happy to have 5% of their pay reduced in exchange for the possibility of remote work.
These people have discovered that not having to go to the office leaves them more time to spend with their family and friends, doing what they enjoy most and still getting sufficient rest. In addition, the new regime has opened their eyes to a healthier lifestyle, far away from the hustle and bustle.
However, is the remote model entirely positive?
Hardly. In short periods, productivity rises when people are allowed to work from home. But as time goes on, the productivity of employees drops significantly.
Firstly, the home environment produces many distracting factors. TV is on, food is in the fridge, and the bed is two feet away. Not many people will resist these temptations, especially when there’s no one around to disapprove. Secondly, the employee is all alone at home and very often isolated from the rest of the family so that they wouldn’t interrupt too much. But this lack of socializing in the workplace takes its toll slowly but thoroughly. There’s no spontaneous brainstorming of ideas, no water-cooler chitchat, no valuable connections or business lunches.
And there’s the conundrum – you like being at home, but sometimes, just sometimes, you wish you were in a face-to-face meeting so you can “feel the room.” Or – you absolutely hate being stuck at home, you miss the people and the buzzing of machines, but sometimes, on a rainy day, you wish you could stay in. Is there a solution to make the best of both worlds?
The Employers’ Point of View
The stance of the employers is diverse. While some companies, such as Twitter, offer their employees the option to stay remote “forever,” others are looking to return their people to the “physical realm.” Or at least split the working model into part-time options. Companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google have either leased or started the construction of new corporate spaces. Judging from this, they are preparing for a return to the traditional way, at least partly. Their reasons are numerous, but most revolve around the problem of managing human resources – training, learning, sharing ideas, and keeping people together. All of these tasks are virtually impossible through remote communication.
On the other hand, many people are now far more selective when it comes to making their own choice. Middle-aged workers, for example, are far more likely to choose the remote work option, while the “fresh blood” is looking to show off their qualities and meet new people in person.
Now that we’ve got the taste of both working in-office and remotely, employers have another standard to meet in order to keep their employees happy. Will the same rules apply to all, or will there be options? How will monitoring employees’ productivity, satisfaction, and mental health be managed for those staying at home and those who choose not to? What scale would be most apt? How will the teams function with newcomers? How will the newcomers work well with the teams? Will they ever meet in person?
According to the Remote Work and Compensation Pulse Survey of May 2021, both employers and employees stated they would prefer to work remotely, i.e., 48%, while 44% of employees wanted hybrid working arrangements to be implemented. In addition, 51% of employers are in favor of the hybrid model, but only 5% of them would consider fully remote work as a possibility.
Considering all above mentioned, the ideal approach is to create good organization and preparation. However, research clearly shows that whatever model is chosen, the productivity and well-being of employees depend on how well said model is implemented.
Hybrid models and carefully “tailored” working conditions that respect both the employer’s goals and the employee’s needs are the only thing that will get organizations all over the globe through this pandemic’s aftermath.