The World’s Biggest Work-From-Home Experiment
Updated : August 4th, 2020
For those lucky enough to still be employed, the Coronavirus pandemic launched the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment (WFH) as employers everywhere were forced to shutter offices and plants by government orders. Working from home has allowed many companies to remain operational during his difficult time which is causing massive layoffs across sectors such as entertainment & recreation, food services, even healthcare, etc.
People have various reactions to this new normal. Let’s look at the various advantages and drawbacks of remote work as we wait to see if it becomes a larger part of the normal economy.
How Work-From-Home Was Viewed
Remote working has grown by volume over the last decade and has even proven lucrative for certain freelancers and contract workers. Once a preferred mode of work for stay-at-home parents, it is now an option given even to full-time employees of big organizations, a few times a month.
Remote working had its fair share of detractors once. It was seen as unsuitable for more than a few employees, due to the difficulties in communication and coordination. Employers also had the impression that employees were less productive when not in the office and surrounded by co-workers.
There is also the difficulty in executing remote work when the tasks require tremendous communication. Nuanced, non-verbal cues are extremely important especially when we consider operations such as sales and legal discussions.
Advantages of Work-From-Home Jobs
Remote work has spurred unprecedented revenue growth for companies like Zoom which provide teleconference tools. Many others including the famous Google Services have scrambled to take advantage of the opportunity by quickly upgrading their offerings.
Consequently, these happen to be some of the few types of organizations that are still hiring.
A famous study by Stanford University on a Chinese company called Ctrip yielded huge positives in favor of remote work in 2015. The firm saw a 13% jump in productivity and a 50% rise in employee retention rates when 1000 workers were sent to work from home. The company soon adopted a remote working policy for nearly all teams.
Remote work has long proved a blessing to prospective parents, giving women requiring longer maternity healing a chance to remain in the workforce. By the same logic, it has also been helpful to those bound at home due to cultural restrictions as well to some people with disabilities.
For employers, the possibility of hiring skilled workers across the world without bearing relocation costs is a very attractive prospect. Therefore, there are now many upcoming job portals focusing on connecting employers to freelance and remote workers. Companies can potentially save on office space, promoting the concept of open and hot desks.
Similarly, it gives employees the flexibility to choose their bosses. Remote work also helps in reducing productivity loss due to long commutes, office politics, personality incompatibilities, etc. It may also make rewards and appraisals fairer by basing them on the accomplishment of outcomes rather than time spent or politics.
Those companies that have been able to transition to remote work are largely in the software services industry, media content creation and other such sectors where there is no tangible product creation. However, this is a result of the nature of the economic shutdown imposed by the pandemic.
Drawbacks Of Remote Work
Working from home is obviously not possible for jobs that involve manual labor, face-to-face consumer-grievance redressal, delivery services, etc. Physical distancing requirements have forced even those organizations to close down that could have managed with transitioning a percentage of the workforce to remote work.
The manufacturing sector cannot transition most of its workforce to remote roles. This is also the case with defense and aerospace companies which have confidentiality requirements and need employees on-site.
The productivity of a work from home employee depends largely upon the efficiency of communication tools adopted by their employers. Without hi-speed internet and investment in scalable technologies, the work from home experiment can challenge patience at the least and retard work at the most.
The Ctrip experiment was successful in part due to the employees having uninterrupted working hours. This is not a possibility now due to the closure of schools. Even then many employees reported a desire to commute to work after a few months. Working from home can breed social isolation and negatively impact mental health without a strong social support circle.
The immediate aftermath of COVID-19 will consist of some paranoia over hygiene and many employees may want to work from home for longer, when possible. But it is likely that many companies will expand remote working roles and profiles in the future. People can expect more work-from-home days in a month. The world’s biggest work-from-home experiment will have lasting changes.
All this comes however after the economy goes back to normal and people are able to return to their regular jobs. If you have been furloughed or laid off, apply for unemployment benefits as quickly as possible.
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