Due to lockdown, many companies have transitioned to remote working and teams with the support of tools like Zoom, Trello and G-Suite. This has left people wondering if remote working is here to stay.
The Economist has predicted this is the end of work life as we know it, and the shift will be one of the great workplace transformations of the 19th and 20th centuries. Meanwhile Twitter has decided that its employees may work from home permanently, while Facebook expects half of its staff will work from home within a decade.
Despite this fervid enthusiasm, is it possible that the remote working concept is losing some of its initial appeal after being trialled for five months? Here are some of the drawbacks it comes with.
1. Burnout and boundaries
The work-life balance has blurred during the pandemic, without a commute to signpost the beginning and end of a workday, and without clear boundaries between home and work life. This could be made worse by employees feeling anxious about their job security and pushing themselves to overperform.
2. Reliability, retention and commitment
Working from home comes with distractions – and staff suffering from burnout or stress from the pandemic are especially likely to be easily distracted, less focussed, less productive or no longer able to deliver as they used to. Hubstaff Blog adds that remote workers are more likely to look at jobs as stepping stones and will more readily move on to new opportunities.
3. Culture and camaraderie
In other words, remote staff may not feel as deep a connection as their office-bound counterparts. It’s far harder to maintain a company culture and develop camaraderie when a team is separated by distance.
4. Tools and technology
Many offices come kitted with sophisticated tools that make work easier – from large-format printers to state-of-the-art scanners, not to mention reliable internet and an IT whizz who is on hand for when things go wrong. Load shedding has created an added challenge, as many staff simply cannot afford to invest in generators or inverters at home, whereas offices will have a fallback plan in place.
5. Security concerns
The shift to remote working quickly revealed how vulnerable remote workers are to cyber-attacks. Without the protection of a corporate firewall and other safety systems, sensitive data leaks pose a huge risk.
As a result of these various factors, Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller, believes that the most likely outcome is a hybrid solution of at-home and in-office workers: “While Zoom has taught us that meetings can easily be accomplished via video call, it has also highlighted the importance of face-to-face meetings. Often video calls can be very staid and humourless. People miss the spontaneity of ‘real life’ meetings, the creative sparring and brainstorming which takes place, and the off-the-cuff remarks that can take a meeting or idea in a completely different direction.
“People miss the spontaneity of ‘real life’ meetings, the creative sparring and brainstorming which takes place, and the off-the-cuff remarks that can take a meeting or idea in a completely different direction.”
“While people like the idea of working from home, we can expect a shift to something slightly more flexible – perhaps balancing remote work with days spent in the office. Companies are now more open to the idea of remote work, but looking for ways to forge team spirit, create camaraderie and ensure they don’t lose the benefits of human interaction.”
It’s likely that business Travel will look a little different too. Gidon Novick, founder of Lucid Ventures and kulula.com, spoke at the recent ASATA Travel Summit. He believes that business travel will become more meaningful, and predicts longer stays of seven to 10 days, as people cluster numerous meetings in a single destination.
“With travel budgets now top of mind, and return on investment key, we’re definitely going to see more meaningful trips, as companies relegate less-important meetings to Zoom.”
Desai agrees, “Business travel has always been important, and often seen as a perk. With travel budgets now top of mind, and return on investment key, we’re definitely going to see more meaningful trips, as companies relegate less-important meetings to Zoom. But we’re also going to see more team-building opportunities – as well as a bleisure component built into trips as a way to reward team members, while looking after their health and well-being.”