The COVID-19 Pandemic has had a significant impact on human lifestyles, priorities, and behavior. The new normal in the post-COVID era is seeing some lasting modifications in professional attitudes. According to Gartner, out of the 3,500+ employees surveyed around the world in October 2021, 65 percent of the respondents said that the pandemic made them rethink the place that work should have in their life. 56 percent said it made them want to contribute more to society.
While the lockdowns halted the pace of the workforce, employers came up with innovative ways to operate their businesses. From virtual recruitment fairs, scouting, remote assessment, and screening to remote onboarding, telecommuting has taken the driving seat. The beginning of the lockdown saw organizations hand-delivering work equipment to the employees, advocating and running programs encouraging good mental health, peer interaction, networking, and a balanced work-life amidst uncertainty.
Here are some benefits of the pandemic remote working setup for companies that employers have recognized:
- Cut down on office expenses – Staff working from home has saved employers’ costs on office rent, electricity, maintenance, furniture, and other fixed costs and utilities.
- Broad talent pool – Remote working facility cancels the mandate to hire locals. Business owners have the option of recruiting candidates all around the world. The online work setup also saves on the relocation costs previously borne by the employer in the traditional work format.
- Time saved – Working from home saves the time that is otherwise wasted due to commuting avoiding tardiness. Timing also depends on the operating hours of the business. If a company hires individuals globally, they will be active 24/7 while bearing minimal infrastructural costs.
- Reduced absenteeism – Since the remote-working format allows for flexible work hours, employees can structure their work accordingly in case of an appointment. They do not necessarily need to take a leave from work. Workers are more likely to work if they feel slightly unwell if they are working from home and do not have the additional travel stress.
- Enhanced productivity – Organizations have often reported an increase in productivity and efficiency as a result of working remotely. It is also in the employee’s best interest to quickly complete their tasks according to their schedule when no time is wasted on internal office gossip or politics. Furthermore, with a set start and end time, meetings and discussions tend to be clearer and more concise. There is less time wastage because the workers are more productive.
- Better employee retention – Working from home cuts the employee’s travel costs and time, granting flexible work hours to fulfill other responsibilities simultaneously. The manager trusts the individual to perform their job without excessive supervision improving employee loyalty. This results in a better employee retention rate.
- Technology – Remote hiring and working are no longer a challenge in today’s digital age, with AI and machine learning simplifying every process. Software like COGBEE have enabled seamless remote hiring with automated assessment, interviewing, proctoring, and evaluation. Candidates selected can then be screened before hiring with recruitment partners such as cFIRST, which conducts a 360-degree verification of the candidate before successful onboarding. Technology also enables effective remote collaboration, networking, and other functions necessary in a work-from-home setup.
Remote working has been an advantageous proposition for the employees as well. Here’s how –
- Flexibility and freedom to structure work — No excessive supervision, pressure to ‘fit in’ with other employees, freedom and flexibility to complete tasks while fulfilling their other responsibilities make working from home very appealing to many workers.
- Reduced expenditure – Working from home saves money on travel, food, clothing, childcare, and other expenses that would otherwise be incurred. These costs can add up to a significant amount.
- Time-saving – Working from home uplifts employee productivity and saves time. The time necessary for commuting and other regular activities gets saved. Employees can work as per their schedule during the hours they feel most productive.
- No relocation – Remote working allows employees to work from any location with reliable internet connection and modern browsers. They can choose to live in any part of the world and work for a company thousands of miles away with ease.
- Workspace of choice — Employees can choose to work in any space they prefer as long as they get the task done. They can choose to work in solitude peacefully or with light music in the background and pick comfortable wear in place of formal office wear. They can sit on a beanbag instead of a stiff chair and personalize their workspace as per their convenience. The flexibility enhances focus, comfort, and positivity.
Given the numerous advantages of working from home, it’s reasonable to assume that organizations operating remotely will convert at a 100% rate. However, surprisingly, the data differs. As per research by Buffer, employees face issues such as logging off or unplugging from work after work hours get done, which negatively impacts their work-life balance.
Other challenges include –
- Motivation, loneliness, slacking, and tardiness without peer and managerial interaction
- Collaboration and networking, tracking tasks, and working in teams, especially when team members belong to different time zones
- The environment at home may not always be ideal for working. Distractions could break focus and negatively impact productivity.
- Building trust is very important when working in teams, managing projects, and completing jobs requiring peer interaction. However, virtual working does not help in this case.
- Members who have language and cultural differences and work in different time zones may have a broader disconnect.
- Employees tend to lack a feeling of ownership towards the organization and focus on passively completing their jobs rather than actively contributing to the growth of the organization, having negative implications for the workers and the company on a long-term basis.
However, thanks to technological advancements, the work-from-home situation and the challenges associated with it have been upgraded in some measure since the COVID. Remote work today differs from the pandemic work-from-home scenario. According to a report by Gartner released in 2020, around 80 percent of the enterprises wish to continue with at least some form of remote work post-pandemic.
This has led several organizations to adopt the concept of hybrid work. This model allows the employee to work from home or office on certain pre-defined terms. This flexibility generates trust, improving mental health, productivity, loyalty, and efficiency proving beneficial for the organization subsequently.
Companies have now started designing a comprehensive remote ecosystem facilitating collaboration and networking, peer interaction, and systems in place to foster company culture and core values. Managers are getting equipped to guide their teams digitally. Through the optimum use of technology to create positive remote experiences, managers try to ensure that the employee is motivated to perform and feels like a part of the organization.
Organizations have remote work manuals and train employees on best practices when working from home. Thus, the virtual work challenge has been considerably softened. Calling hybrid work the future of work, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a message to his fellow Googlers, “The future of work is flexibility.” Further proving the benefit of letting employees decide what workspace is best for them, Twitter announced, “Twitter Employees Can Work From Home Forever or wherever you feel most productive and creative.” Blackberry and other companies following suit are other examples showing that hybrid work is the way to go in the new normal.
Having seen both sides of the coin, how would you envisage the future of work in the post-COVID world?