It has been over a year since COVID-19 changed the way the world defines work. We tumbled out of our offices and back into our homes, set up workstations there, and became our very own islands of productivity.
As remote work software applications such as Hive, Slack, and Mural continue to innovate and change the way we collaborate with colleagues online, it seems like remote work is here to stay. Is working remotely as good as it sounds? Here are some of the benefits and challenges of having flexible remote working arrangements.
Benefits of Remote Work
No Daily Commute
The best part of working remotely is the ability to avoid the daily commute. As transport costs and commute times continue to increase, gone are the hours of unpaid labor spent chasing after public transport or being stuck in traffic.
No pants? No problem! One of the key benefits of remote work is the freedom from office fashion. Sure, workers may need a couple of decent shirts to throw on during meetings. But for the most part, working in pyjamas has become quite the accepted norm. Aside from saving money on professional outfits, workers are also reducing expenditure on eating out and takeaway coffees. They generally have access to better meals, as they have the facilities to prepare diet-appropriate meals for themselves.
Since embracing remote work, companies are increasingly adopting productivity-based arrangements instead of the rigid, old, time-based philosophy. This means that so long as the required work is completed to a positive outcome, employees have free reign over their working schedule. Want to sleep in with your partner? Need to pop off to the shop for toilet paper? Is there a mid-morning yoga class that you’ve always wanted to join? It is now possible for workers to adjust their schedule in a way that suits their needs, resulting in a better work-life balance and higher productivity and job satisfaction.
Less stress from commuting, more control over diet, and a better work-life balance all contribute to improved physical and mental health for workers. In addition, workers are spared the unnecessary stress of office politics, lack of confidence in their physical appearance, pressure from being in a ‘sterile’ environment, and more. Workers can take breaks or power naps when needed or eat whenever they are hungry. They can decorate and customize their workspace with ergonomic chairs or an indoor jungle, creating the vibe they need to be productive.
The above outcomes may seem to only benefit employees, but the impact on employers is just as tangible. Healthier and happier workers take fewer days off and respond with more productivity and higher quality output.
In addition, employers can now tap on a larger talent pool to fulfill their company’s needs. Instead of hiring locally, companies can look across the world to find someone who is the right fit. Of course, it is not all sunshine and rainbows in the remote working world. Despite its many benefits, there are challenges to consider as well.
Challenges of Remote Work
Being Constantly On
Gone are clearly defined work/life scenarios. With remote work, the two seem to meld and flow. Because of this, some workers are finding it hard to set boundaries and unplug from work. As numerous companies have remote workers from different time zones, messages and emails could be coming through at all times of the day. Workers need to establish clear boundaries about when they are available, or they could find themselves working more than eight hours a day.
One of the best things about the traditional pre-COVID work environment was the social interaction with co-workers. While some introverts may be content with the company of their pets and immediate family, many workers do end up feeling isolated. Whether it’s talking about news and politics over lunch or just checking in on each other at the water cooler, these interactions are essential for building trust and rapport between colleagues. For those that live alone, a physical workplace might have been their only source of social interaction.
Lack of Focus
There can be many distractions when working remotely–from the temptation of the television controller that seems to whisper your name, to the children that are fighting over it. Outside of the controlled office environment, it can be difficult to concentrate. The use of essential oils, yoga exercises, and meditation programs for corporations are some of the tools people use to remain centered and regain focus and clarity while working remotely.
Although concerning, these challenges can be easily managed by creating a work culture that is sensitive to the unspoken needs of the staff. Team managers can set up boundaries that allow workers to effectively ‘clock off’ even while working remotely. If you’re missing out on company culture building when part (or all) of the staff are remote, then company bonding events such as zoom meditation programs for the fully remote workers, or guided meditations for the workplace can be organised, as part of a whole-of-company strategy to implement corporate meditation programs, and build culture and familiarity. Staff birthdays and special occasions can also be celebrated virtually, to build connections between team members.
By all indications, remote work is the new normal. As technology advances, there is a lot of potential for how much more connection and collaboration we can put back into a remote workplace. In the meantime, the value to the working population is so remarkable that we need to genuinely consider it to be a template for the future. If current trends continue, the sky’s the limit for remote work.