Working from home and remote work are the Explorer’s dream. So will it stick around after the pandemic?
A few years ago my then-workplace introduced a ‘flexible work policy’. I immediately requested a four-day week, with three of those days working from home. About a month later, after HR finished laughing, I was offered one day working from home (and a five-day week).
In retrospect it was rather optimistic of me. Flexible work was new to them and they needed to adjust slowly. Now, in the grip of a pandemic and Stage 3 restrictions, everyone from that office – and across the world – is working from home five days a week.
Headlines tell us daily about ways COVID-19 will change our lives forever. And mostly the ‘new normal’ kinda sucks – fewer hugs, less travel, an impending (Even) Great(er) Depression. But one change, perhaps a potential positive glimmer, is the normalisation of remote working for all us office drones. Not all jobs can be done remotely, but if your job largely involves sitting in front of a computer and going to meetings, there’s a damn high chance you could do it from anywhere with decent WiFi.
So is remote work going to stick around?
The Centre For Future Work recently released a study into how COVID-19 could affect Australian workplaces, and suggested current remote working arrangements will become ‘a more lasting shift in the nature of our work’.
Kate Lister, President of consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, agreed with this in an interview with news website Vox:
‘Once they’ve worked from home, they’re going to want to continue’
She added that many employees had long-wanted more flexibility, including the option to work from home, and that the current situation is showing companies how well it works.
Sure, working remotely isn’t for everyone. Some people quite like the social vibe of their office. For the seasoned adventurer, though, it’s an opportunity to live in the mountains, or on the coast, to use the time saved on the commute to train harder and explore further, or even just to go for a run at midday. Personally, I Iike being able to energise with a few pushups every hour or so, without all the odd looks from my colleagues!
But will remote working stay the norm after the pandemic is over? Here are three main reasons that point to yes.
We’re Now Comfortable With the Skills We Need
We’ve all downloaded Zoom, and basically learnt to use it. We’ve set up essentially functional workspaces at home. We’ve figured out how much email, phone and video contact we need with colleagues.
Managers are also getting a crash course in how to manage staff remotely. HRM, news site of the Australian HR Institute, said in March that the majority of managers have never received training in this – and that there’s been a strong recent increase in workplaces trying to figure it out.
We’ve all been forced to learn new things, and that means we all now have a whole new set of (proven) skills for working remotely.
We’ve Seen That Remote Work.. Works!
Two years ago my workplace was understandably cautious about my work from home request because it was largely untested. Right now it’s been more thoroughly tested than anyone would have thought possible.
Small business consultant Steve King, told Vox that previously ‘a lot of company management and leaders showed great skepticism’ about letting staff work remotely, but that now ‘that skepticism will go away because companies recognise that remote work does work.’
In fact, a few days ago Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter employees will be able to work from home ‘forever’ if they choose to, thanks to the online and decentralised structure of the company.
It Actually Saves Money for Businesses
The Centre For Future Work study also said that cost savings to employers are likely to encourage opportunities for remote work.
‘New forms of decentralisation could also arise once employers realise they don’t need all their staff working from expensive CBD offices,’ the study says.
It goes on to say that ‘Establishing and operating their workplace is a major cost for most employers – including building and administration costs, equipment, utilities and amenities.’
A chance to save money will be very attractive to the many businesses taking an economic hit right now.
In HRM, the current situation was described as ‘the largest work from home experiment ever conducted. So, if you want your remote office arrangement to go the distance when distancing is no longer necessary, make sure your bosses know what a success the experiment was:
- Show them that new processes work, and that not only are you now a veritable whizz with videoconferencing, but management processes and reporting lines are functioning smoothly.
- Be efficient – and be seen to be efficient. Sure, self-promotion can feel a bit cringey, but your boss will likely find it genuinely helpful to be kept posted about your achievements (within reason).
- Emphasise the savings to the office if they don’t have to provide a workspace, with the associated costs of equipment, electricity and coffee for you.
Now get yourself a pair of work pyjamas, go for a midday run on the beach, and start Googling property in the Byron Bay hinterlands!