The concept of remote work has populated the media for a while, but where does it leave us in a post-pandemic society?
As the Covid-19 pandemic progressed, the working society flurried to a remote way of life. Workers, where possible, had to transfer their work environments in replacement with a home office, with little knowledge when they’d be able to return to their known workplace. Now, many are wondering whether they will return to an office at all, even after the pandemic subsides.
Although working from home abruptly became the standard in 2020, a remote working lifestyle is not slowing down in 2021. One survey conducted by Upwork presented around 1 in 4 Americans will remain remote workers throughout 2021, a stark difference wherein 2018, 7% of employees in the US had the choice to work from home. This acceleration in support of a remote working society left organisations the onus in discussing workplace practices that will direct their workforce for the present and future.
Remote work is no longer a trend
Early on, conversations surrounding remote work were largely focused on employee productivity. Many studies confirmed that productivity was generally positively correlated with remote work. For example, a longitudinal study analysing remote workers for two years found that employees reported stable if not increased productivity when working from home. Although a number of factors influence productivity, workplace cultures and remote jobs that prioritises open communication and general positivity supported a productive remote workforce.
It seems that nowadays the remote working society is not interested in returning to the office in a post-pandemic world. In a recent survey conducted by PwC, only 9% of employees currently working remote are interested in going back to traditional office environments. 19% of respondents expressed a want to work remotely and not return to the office at all. Nevertheless, 72% of participants ideally want a mixture of in-office and remote jobs. These studies will influence the future of work in adapting current practices.
It is worth noting that remote work presents challenges that influence a flexible working approach. For example, a remote work report in 2019 found that employees struggled to unplug after working hours. Another study reported challenges that include support and communication barriers that arose with remote work. Organisations need to consider what particular challenges they are experiencing within their own company culture and develop a working practice that is sustainable for them.
Flexibility remains a top priority
In 2021, a hybrid model whereby a mixture of remote work and working from the office will take shape for many organisations. For some workers, the commute time to the office is enough incentive to work from home, whereas for others, the office remains an important space for peer-to-peer interaction. With this in mind, organisations will cater to the needs of their workforce and a hybrid model will become a workplace norm.
Applying a hybrid model that supports a remote environment necessitates that homes are equipped with the tools required for employees to carry out their roles. A study conducted by Microsoft (2021) found that 42% of employees do not own the correct office supplies at home, and over 46% of respondents stated their employer do not help with remote work expenses. Aside from understanding what employee preferences are regarding remote jobs, organisations should be prepared to invest in what working from home entails.
The importance of communication
Remote work leaves less opportunity for leaders and employees to interact with one another. Where office encounters can encourage conversation between employers and employees, such encounters do not occur at home. Lesser interactions allow for miscommunication within organisations, where employees find less opportunity to communicate their needs for support with their leaders.
Effective and supportive communication within organisations is vital for building and maintaining relationships, and this is especially true to navigate through uncertain times. Generally speaking, organisations should prioritise communication with employees that will in turn assist positive morale and productivity.
There are a number of ways to support communication in your organisation. These include:
- Achievable goals and expectations that are manageable given new workplace circumstances,
- Clear and understandable workplace tasks that leave no room for ambiguity,
- Include your peers in workplace discussions and remain an accessible point of contact, and
- Listen to your teams, ask what they need to support a remote workplace environment and be open to suggestions and feedback.
Effective communication maintains an important value for the growth of organisations, especially as the world moves remote and depends on digital means to communicate. As we navigate an ever-changing working society, collaboration is needed more than ever to ensure a supportive and sustainable workplace culture.