WORKING REMOTELY: REMOTE FROM OFFICE OR HOME ?!
TELECOMMUTING IS THE NEW NORMAL?
If you have got stuck in traffic or got drenched in rain anytime while going to your workplace, then it is certain that ‘telecommuting’ might have crossed your mind at least once. And now, in the present scenario of the coronavirus pandemic, every company has started telecommuting, which is a fancier term for working remotely.
Though there are employees who are full-time remote workers, on the other hand, there are these people who are hired as on-site employees. A sudden shutdown of the world has not only pulled down the economy but has also pulled them into a new world of networking. The concept of work-from-home has come with its risks and rewards for the companies as well as to its employees.
BENEFITS FOR EMPLOYEES
Counting the blessings of it leaves us with a handful of them as listed.
• Freedom of choice
The term ‘work-from-home’ brings to a kinda vivid picture of a man with well-groomed hair and a near, ironed shirt with a suitable tie sitting in front of the laptop. But below the table, one could see him in his casual trousers and shabby slippers. This concept no longer forces employees to work in sweat pants. Freedom of choice is the first and foremost benefit of remote working.
• Less commute
Previously, people used to leave for work much before office time. But now, it hardly takes a minute to present ourselves in front of the team. Not only that, but work-from-home has also reduced travelling costs which could now be utilised for other purposes.
• Power naps
During office hours, a power nap of a walk around the office may invite unwelcoming glances from co-workers. But working remotely has come with its benefit of pausing work anytime and going for a walk around the house, doing a bit of meditation, having a tete-a-tete with dear ones or even having a quick power nap. A study conducted by NASA showed that a 40-minute nap can improve performance by 34%.
• Better work and life balance
Employees who have recently changed to work-from-home could easily recognise the extra time saved in their schedule. This time could be productively used either to come up with new ideas for work or to spend time with family. It also paves the way for creating flexible schedules. It means that the employee decides when to start and end work and when to take breaks. Recent researches claim that the option of work-from-home is the top priority of job seekers.
•Time with family
Spending ample time with family boosts happiness which in turn proportionately increased activeness and productivity. It also proves to decrease stress and work pressure. Lack of time with family has been the major complaint of office-goers. With the advent of remote working, employees are now able to spend time with family for the sake of which they are working tirelessly.
• Health benefits
An office worker, engrossed in work finds it time-consuming even to have lunch. But imagine a remote worker who is reminded of lunch at the correct time by loved ones. Remote working has given rise to employees taking care of their health and having nutritious, home-made food.
• Freedom of choice of location
There is no hard and fast rule of selecting a particular location to work. A person can work from any place of interest. Also, while working, s/he can listen to soothing music that calms the mind. While attending a video conference, one could even sit on the bed with stretched legs with a laptop. It makes no big difference as long as the background looks better.
BENEFITS FOR COMPANIES
Working remotely has not only been beneficial to employees but in many ways, to the companies as well.
• Increased productivity
A recent Canada Life Survey states the rate of homeworkers’ productivity as 7.7/10 while it is 6.5/10 for office workers. The advantages of homeworkers have been the lack of a loud environment and distracting coworkers. Productivity automatically gives rise to the growth and economy of the company.
• Higher levels of employee retention
Higher levels of employee retention
When a company gives flexibility to the employees, chances are high that employees will retain their position in the company. Because 54% of the employees have registered their opinion of changing jobs for more flexibility, companies are ought to satisfy their needs. This, in turn, reduces employee turnover.
Employers could cut down costs like electricity, heat and phone lines if employees work remotely. There is no necessity to worry about the increasing rental space due to hiring more people. This saving of money for some time can add up to large amounts at the end. Moreover, the lack of commuting lessens the use of transport which is the largest source of carbon emission. Altogether, work-from-home lowers organisational costs.
• Widened talent pool
When organisations call for on-site employees, only people within the geographical boundary tend to turn up. The high-rented houses and higher costs of living in metropolitan cities should be kept in mind. But when work-from-home is implemented, anyone can be hired from anywhere. This brings in a healthy competition and the company can hire the best of the lot.
• Lower absenteeism
Allowing employees to work remotely increases productivity which contributed to the reduction of absenteeism. A study showed that the increase in productivity and performance combine to create stronger engagement and lower absenteeism by 41%. To improve employee engagement, freedom for employees to manage their schedules and tasks should be offered.
CHALLENGES FOR EMPLOYEES
Just like a coin has two sides, this system of working remotely also has its side of disadvantages as listed below.
•Lack of proper communication
The most disturbing feature is the lack of proper communication between the team members. Having a person-to-person communication is something very different from virtual communication between people without harmony. Body language, which plays a major role in understanding others, goes missing in phone calls or video conferencing. There is a high risk of misunderstanding ideas and messages as one may not be able to catch the tone of the speaker.
• Network issues
One cannot jump to conclusions that every team member is bestowed with a reliable network connection. During calls and meetings, chances are there that the complete message will not travel to the other end due to network issues. Rarely does office networks lag but it is quite opposite in case of working remotely.
Studies show that once distracted it takes 23 minutes to regain concentration. In such a case, avoiding distraction while work-from-home should be the major concern of employees. During the early days of Work-from-home, there might be a clear distinction between home and home office. But with time, this line of distinction begins to blur.
• Staying connected, focused and motivated
With the absence of supervisors and team members, less pressure falls upon the employees. This doesn’t motivate them to work. The lack of group satisfaction misses out while working remotely from co-workers. It is also easy to lose focus which may not happen with a conversation over coffee breaks in the office.
• Unplugging from work
22% of the employees state that they feel difficulty in unplugging from work. How can the employee be happy when his office is present in the next room? S/he will always be conscious about work and always be thinking of the tasks.
CHALLENGES FOR THE EMPLOYERS
When challenges arose for employees working individually, imagine the state of the managers and the company in leading a remote team.
• Data protection and cybersecurity
Protection of data is the major concern of companies. As many employees prefer personal laptops to store office data, increases the risk of cyberattacks. These laptops, which do not offer enterprise-grade security, are prone to cyber and virus attacks. This may result in theft or complete loss of data.
• Trust issues
When the head of a team is unable to see the teammates regularly, how come s/he believes that efforts are being put in? It is no surprise that the managers become sceptical about the contribution of the employees. If not handled properly, working remotely can cause mistrust within the team.
• Different time zones
The problem of working in different time zones poses a new threat to the overall progress of the team. Scheduled meetings might do for the one who has a different time zone. Also, answers or responses cannot always be received on time. Maybe the person on the other end is sleeping while the other is working and expecting a response. During such situations, compromising with activities is the only go.
• Keeping morale high
24% of small and middle-sized businesses say that maintaining morale is their highest challenge, especially during the pandemic. Boasting morale begins with communication, which includes encouragement and appreciation. Though high-fives with teammates may seem so common, the absence of it seems a major missing.
THE FUTURE OF WORKING REMOTELY
Work-from-home, if implemented effectively, can yield better results. It proves useful to the economy of the companies and the productivity of the employees. In the long run, situations can change wherein employees would look forward to more remote working opportunities. Buffer conducted a survey and concluded that 99% of the current remote workers are willing to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers.
But still, none can accurately predict the future of work-from-home. Nevertheless, it will certainly continue to change the way we work.
-Design Research Team