The Pandemic and Remote Working

Posted 20th Mar 2020

The current global Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has forced the world into an extraordinary situation and in turn forced people all over the world to work from home, many for the first time. The remote workforce is nothing new and the numbers who opt to work from home have steadily grown. Rather than choosing to be located in one place over another, what has also evolved is a society that works part of the week from the home office, part of it from the office and sometimes, part of it from other remote venues such cafes and hotels etc. With more companies allowing employees to telecommute and with technology enabling this shift, is the future of the workforce really remote? Is technology and a flexible attitude all we need to stay at home? …for now though of course, a great many of us simply don’t have the option and working from home, and home only, certainly in the short to medium term, will rapidly become the norm.

There has certainly been an increase in community/co-working/Surf Office-type working spaces specifically for people who tend to work in their own bubble, but who don’t want to be ‘on their own’ while working and it would seem most people are familiar with the term “remote working”. Until now though, only a few really understood what it meant. Video calling, emails, telephones, all play a part in keeping humans connected, but is this enough to allow us to disconnect from the face-to-face?

Indeed, gathering together, as we’ve done for hundreds of thousands of years, is part of our natural instinct. Herding is biologically programmed into us (see a Washington State University study here). Collaborating with other humans to grow personal resources, increase creatively through philosophic discussion, fulfil our emotional needs and attain more as an individual but within a group…that’s what humans do. Herding evolved from the need for individuals to better themselves, not for the overall betterment of society, but it worked and the intrinsic need to gather proved its worth. 

However, as a vast number of us will likely be working from the dining room table or spare bedroom for the coming months, let’s focus on the positives. For a start we’re all familiar with the Monday morning routine. Tired from the weekend, we get up early and ready ourselves for the usual commute. An hour or two in the car or on public transport maybe and then once we’re there, eight to ten hours of office politics for some, sticky IT issues and possibly the lunchtime rush to get your favourite sandwich etc. Sound familiar? …and let’s also consider some other advantages: 

  • Although there are incidental costs involved with allowing employees to telecommute, the financial benefits to an organisation can be substantial. Reduced rent and energy costs can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line and right now this will be welcome and perhaps at least go some way to replacing a portion of lost revenue.
  • More productivity - a recent Stanford study (Nicholas Bloom) found that home workers can often (and apparently considerably) outperform their office-based colleagues.
  • Better mental and physical health - more time with family and less time commuting is a huge benefit.
  • You can wear shorts and flip flops, a super hero costume or whatever you feel most comfortable in (no one will judge you)
  • Choose your hours - of course, many will most likely have to be available during office hours and simply not be able to dictate their working day, but many will be able to and the option of working when you feel you are most productive (whether that’s 1pm or 1am) will be yours to exercise.

Whatever individual challenges you and your employers may face in the coming weeks and months with regard to ‘home working’, we wish you all the very best and hope you find ways to make the best of it.

Photo by Agnieszka Boeske on Unsplash

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