Is Remote Work The Future?
We’re past a good chunk of the pandemic lockdowns. We have had to adapt our lifestyles completely to suit this new reality. While many businesses have suffered closures, bankruptcy and losses, many others have moved to a remote working environment, where employees work from the safety of their home to conduct business as usual.
The question is - after almost 6 months of this remote work lifestyle, are employers and employees looking at making this a permanent change? Will offices be obsolete in the future? What are the benefits and problems with this mode of working?
No fixed working hours
Personal and professional lives have become entangled. Many employees are complaining that all days have become workdays. “All Days are workdays! There are no specific working hours, we just end up working the entire day. “, says Ankita, a 24 year old associate at a consulting firm in Mumbai. Employees are beginning to realise that work from home translates to always available. “Where will you go, everything is shut outside.”, says Sudhir, an IT professional, adding that bosses take advantage of this situation to overwork their team.
Companies have also realised that this situation is leading to burnout in employees and are looking for ways to limit work during the day, and come up with ‘no-work’ days.
Sometimes, home is not the best place to work
The lockdowns have also shut down schools and kids are home all day. Managing active kids along with office work and house work is challenging according more than 70% of employees who have small kids. Since schools are being conducted via video, schoolwork also needs to be managed. All this makes it difficult to focus on work, and is taking a toll on the employees’ mental and physical health.
The cultural and social experience of the workplace is missing
Great teams do great work. To become a great team, people need to know each other well. They need to interact face to face. It is only by working together can this be achived. Even leisure activities done in the workplace increase bonding and cohesion between teams. Working together in one office increases ‘social capital’. Remote work decreases ‘social capital’. A lot of startups and big companies alike credit good teamwork for their success. This teamwork is difficult to achive remotely. “We have never faced such a situation before, so we’re not sure how to tackle it”, says a startup founder from Bangalore.
But there are a few bright sides to the Work From Home model too.
No Long Commutes
This study indicates that 1 in 4 employees quits their job because the commute is too long. The daily commute also brings down productivity and increases stress.
On an average, the remote employee saves around $4500 yearly on fuel costs, compared to the in-office employee, and around 400 hours (17 days!) per year.
More Focus on Health
The study also indicates that remote employees are healthier than than in-office counterparts, on an average. Remote employees clocked around 2 hours and 44 minutes of exercise per week, 25 minutes more than in-office employees. In case of the COVID pandemic, many people have reported to feel healthier, make time for exercise and join online workout sessions.
One of the benefits of work from home that people are reporting is that they have more flexibility to work. Rigid deadlines have become less stressful as there is no pressure to work only during specific hours.
A different kind of work life balance
They are also able to spend more time with their family and bond over activities like cooking together and eating together. This flexibility has given people time to pursue their hobbies or relax and unwind.
What does the future hold?
So are offices obsolete? Definitely not. But the office or the workplace as it is today may undergo a change. Companies have realised that they can save on some real estate costs while being uncompromising on productivity, while employees have realised that better flexibility and work life balance is possible with remote work or work from home.
In the future, a hybrid office will become popular with companies and employees alike. The social environment that an office provides for employees with common goals and objectives simply cannot be replicated for a remote work environment. The current design of the office as an all in one space for everyone will probably be redesigned to provide a common and equal work environment for both, those who work from the office as well as those from home. We will probably see the rise of small satellite offices instead of big headquarters like the ones prevalent currently. This will also help companies tap talent from locations where it was not possible before. Employees, too, will prefer to work remotely if it saves them the cost of moving to and staying in big cities.