This is a guest post from Sarah Dixon. Sarah is an award-winning author, prolific writer of short stories and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing. She’s also writing for Distant Job, a remote staffing agency based in Montreal, about remote culture, managing remote workers, success stories.
Remote work has been a buzzword for a long time now. It’s seen a steady increase in popularity over the last couple of decades, and as technology has advanced to make working from anywhere in the world easier, the idea of hiring the best talent from around the globe has been embraced.
To a large part, that’s been driven by the changing face of the workforce. As of 2020, 35% of all employees are Millennials and another 24% are Gen Z – that’s 59% of working age people who are digital natives.
It isn’t just the young whippersnappers who want to work from home, though. Statistics from Global Workplace Analytics suggest that as many as 90% of workers want to work from home, at least part-time.
Still, many employers were reluctant to give remote work a change. Even in the face of evidence that remote workers were more productive, cost less, and were less likely to leave, you’d hear companies come up with excuses, or cite some of the big remote work ‘fails’ as reasons they weren’t ready to embrace change. And then along came COVID-19.
Self-Isolation and Remote Work
As countries around the world responded to the coronavirus pandemic, it became obvious that keeping people apart was the best way to control infection rates. That led companies to tell their staff that if they could work from home, they should. It’s hard to say how many new remote employees this has created, but Google’s Dublin Office alone sent 8,000 staff back home to work.
But what about when the danger of the virus has passed? Will life return to normal, or will we see remote working become the new normal?
The Future of Remote Work
There’s a good chance that remote work will see an exponential rise in take-up when things settle down after the danger has passed. Why? Because having had a trial run, a lot of the arguments that we see against remote work will be invalidated.
Myth 1: People who work from home don’t actually work
Many companies are only staying in business now because their staff are able to carry on their work from home, proving that old chestnut is false.
A good worker is a good worker, no matter where they do their job, so anyone who does decide to take advantage is going to show themselves up very quickly.
Myth 2: You can’t collaborate remotely
Yes you can. There are lots of different tools out there to help you connect with your remote team and to work together, really effectively on projects.
While software companies might have pioneered remote working, we now have hothouse conditions for many other industries to join the fun. Whatever your company does in office, there’s a way to do it from a distance, too.
Myth 3: Remote working is just offshoring by another name
We know that some people have had bad experiences in the past when they’ve outsourced work to firms in different countries. But hiring a remote employee is a different thing entirely, and we think that will be proven by how beneficial companies find remote work to be.
How Companies Are Helping
To recognize the additional challenges for remote workers, some companies are putting together measures that help support the transition to working from home. Both Shopify and Facebook have given their team a $1000 stipend to spend on outfitting their home office while they’re confined to home.
Workday has given employees an additional two week’s pay to cover unforeseen costs. Other companies have shown their support through embracing measures like flexible working, letting families set their working hours around childcare and other commitments.
The Hidden Benefits
Right now, the benefits of remote working are probably hidden under a cloak of uncertainty. With so many people getting started with remote work at once, the ‘noise’ on remote work is part panic, and part reassurance from those of us who have been doing this a while. Give it a few weeks, and things will settle down and the benefits will become more obvious.
- Increased productivity. Yes, remote workers really are more productive than office-based teams.
- Happier employees. Life is very stressful right now, especially as home workers adjust to their kids being at home too. But a better work/life balance does make remote workers happier, and that translates to…
- Healthier employees. Of course, the reason so many are working from home is to try and avoid coronavirus but working remotely brings a health boost with it. In large part that’s due to not having to commute, which leads to back ache and raised blood pressure.
- Lower costs. Remote employees stay loyal, increasing retention. But you’ll also be saving costs on office space, furniture and more besides.
In short, what’s going on right now is a global trial of remote working. There’s a lot of advice being given by old hands at working from home, that should help make the sudden transition easier for companies to manage. When the dust settles, I think we’ll all be glad to see remote working become more accepted.