It’s an acknowledged fact that change is the only permanent thing, and most of us accept disruptions and diversions with equanimity as we go through life making corresponding adjustments to our thoughts and actions. The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is gigantic in proportion to the minor disruptions encountered by the world itself and workplaces in particular. Our personal and professional lives are altered with the social distancing norms, with offices adopting work-from-home policies on a more or less permanent basis. Will remote work be the future of work? Let’s look at the various questions being raised in this regard.
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There is no doubt that remote work ensured that business and economic activities continued despite having people locked down and unable to step out of their homes. Remote work will definitely continue to be a viable option for many businesses, but not all will continue to be remote. For any job, productivity is of the utmost importance and unless it is possible to be equally productive when working remotely, it will not prove to be the future of work.
Businesses have found themselves enjoying savings on overheads like supplies, equipment, and real estate costs, when permitting employees to work remotely. Some have also found that it is providing higher job satisfaction while promoting greater productivity, leading to increased profitability for the business. Such employers will definitely continue with the practice, and institute work-from-anywhere policies even after the pandemic stops being a threat. They would need to juggle meetings across time zones, cope with interruptions, use the different tools which enable communication like email, call/video apps to keep the information needed for collaboration, flowing.
As long as work is about what we do rather than where we are located, we can be assured of success even when we work remotely. As long as we inspire the necessary trust in our capability and willingness to deliver on the job, by meeting the required performance levels work can continue without reference to where we are located, making attendance at the office a matter of choice, instead of a permanent commitment.
Organizations that are able to keep lines of communication open and institute performance management systems to track results rather than attendance can transition easily to virtual collaboration and remote work practices. Workplaces can easily operate on a location-independent basis, across geographies, when they manage information without using filing cabinets and have systems in place to provide access to all employees who need such access.
Many people advocate remote work as an ideal way to achieve work-life balance. With a corresponding increase in collaboration, it could improve an organization beyond recognition while increasing the job satisfaction of the employees. When both employers and employees accept their shared responsibilities and commit themselves to the idea of remote work, they could definitely make remote work productive.
Earlier, we used to primarily hear of customer service jobs being delivered upon, remotely. Sales, education, computer and IT, medical, and health are the other areas where both employers and employees are increasingly receptive to the idea of working remotely. Many job opportunities today are in technology like computer programming, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and engineering and these can be delivered remotely along with jobs in data entry, content writing, and even call center jobs in consumer service and technical support.
There are many calling apps and data sharing apps offered by the Google suite of tools and the Microsoft suite of tools. Then we have Slack, Zoom, and Skype which make the remote work option far more attainable to most businesses.
The younger generations value the pay they get, along with the flexibility they have in work hours and location. With technology facilitates their choices, more and more of them are happy to stay at home and prioritize their family’s needs or travel to exotic locations as they work. The tools which enable the remote work have gone under the scanner with the increased need for them and are set to be improved out of all recognition, heralding a larger wave of remote working even when the pandemic stops posing a threat.
With the right tools to optimize their day-to-day performance, not only are employees engaged and empowered, they are also more innovative and resourceful in the way they work. Thus, when employees feel engaged and empowered, they not only deliver better value to their organization but also connect with their team members better and help them to improve too. Together, their contribution to the organization would increase out of all proportion, and thus would definitely qualify as an opportunity.
Managers today cannot be reassured of productivity and achievement only through using sensory cues like seeing employees arriving early and leaving late or being in an office filled with the sound of voices and ringing phones. Such criteria do not symbolize productivity, accomplishment, and achievement anymore. It’s high time managers learnt to look for different cues to be assured of productivity like reports on goal attainment, learning, meeting deliverables. It’s time to accept that work can be productive, even without supervision. Being suspicious and assuming that employees would log in and log out at certain hours, but play truant during the intervening time would all prove to be an unnecessary waste of time when employers repose trust in the honesty of their employees and judge them by their output rather than the hours they stayed logged in.
Technology would play a very crucial role in making a success of remote work policies. They would need to adopt the right technology like a performance management system to track objectives and key results (OKRs). Ensure that individual goals are aligned to organizational goals and steer clear of their traditional approached and to evaluate the employees solely on their performance. Establish effective performance management processes and be assured of tracking and rewarding the exemplary performers.