Office Vs. Remote – The future of work in a post-Covid world
How the pandemic pushed us to reimagine our work environments
The ongoing Covid-19 healthcare crisis has disrupted the majority of market sectors and labour forces around the world, drastically transforming our daily lives and shifting the way we work.
As the global pandemic forced an abrupt transition to working from home for millions of employees, it’s only fair that many are wondering if this is really the end of the corporate office.
With advanced IT tools, networks and infrastructure making work from home possible, remote work capabilities have certainly played a key role in minimizing the pandemic’s overall impact.
What is the future of work if employees could or should work from home? Is the daily office commute still necessary or will remote work models become the corporate world’s new norm?
In this article, we’ll examine the benefits and challenges of both office-based and remote work, as well as explore how Covid-19 could shape the work environments of the future.
While debates on the benefits and viability of remote work are at least a decade old, the pandemic accelerated a wider implementation of remote work practices globally.
Facing global lockdowns, companies rushed to transform their workflows with smart IT solutions in order to manage workforces virtually and to ensure seamless collaboration.
Consider that as of 2021, some of the world’s top-performing companies have switched to offering permanent remote or hybrid work options for the majority of their employees.
According to trend data from Global Workplace Analytics, at the peak of the pandemic in 2020, 69% of U.S employees worked remotely, compared with only 4.1% pre-pandemic.
Even if few companies are prepared to fully abandon the office, the success of remote work during the pandemic has already transformed traditional corporate culture.
A US remote work survey by PwC in 2021 showed that both employees and employers agree on flexibility being the highest-ranked benefit in a post-pandemic work environment.
With the global workforce increasingly being shaped into distributed and flexible teams, it’s no wonder an Upwork study found that 22% of the US workforce will be remote by 2025.
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As long as you have a Wi-Fi connection, most corporate work today is possible from anywhere, any time. Let’s proceed with a list of key benefits associated with remote work environments:
Improved Work-Life Balance
Remote jobs are often running on flexible schedules. By being in control of your work schedule, you can gain the space and time to better attend to the needs of your personal life. Better mental health, parenting, personal fitness and the freedom to run errands, can all be achieved by being able to choose when to start and end your work day.
Working from home saves money for both employees and employers. Fuel, car maintenance, transport and eating out are all costs that can be reduced or eliminated through remote work. Companies of all sizes can save money by not having to pay for overhead, real estate, operation continuity, as well as to subsidize worker transit expenses.
Another key benefit of remote work for both employees and employers is increased productivity. It’s no surprise that less commuting, less office politics and a quiet work setting can lead to a better work performance with fewer distractions. The flexibility provided by remote work practices allows companies and workers to focus only on what really matters.
Being able to work from anywhere with a good Wi-Fi connection means that you are location-independent and that your employability potential is not limited by your geographic location. Just like workers can benefit from a broader range of work opportunities, companies can also benefit from being able to hire workers from wider talent pools.
With a scientific consensus on the dangers of climate change, perhaps the most important benefit of remote work is its undeniably positive environmental impact. As the pandemic forced millions to change their decade-old habits and work from home, the result is slower deforestation, less air pollution and better water quality around the world.
What are the challenges of remote work? Is the office better?
Going remote hasn’t been easy for all. The pandemic pushed business leaders to find ways to prioritize safety, balance the needs of teams and individuals, as well as to maintain operations as efficiently as possible. Let’s have a look at some of the challenges of remote work practices:
For many companies, maintaining an updated IT infrastructure that supports remote workers can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Consistent quality delivered to clients requires frequent software updates and adherence to data-protection laws.
Remote IT hardware is key for success in a post-Covid world. New laptops and smartphones for remote workers are costly for companies geared towards the office and especially for those that didn’t anticipate a gradual shift to tele-working before the pandemic.
The traditional corporate office can be a nurturing ground for a highly-engaged and motivated workforce. After-work drinks and in-office ping pong tournaments are ultimately more successful at establishing team morale when compared with work meetings over Zoom.
While video conferencing software can certainly enable corporate teams to collaborate remotely, some industry sectors still need face-to-face engagement and in-office brainstorming over a table to encourage creativity and game-changing innovations.
For some people, working from home can blur the line between the professional and personal space. Reducing stress and mentally switching off from work worries is much easier when you can physically exit the office building at the end of a long work day.
The pandemic undoubtedly reshaped global markets, established the e-commerce sector as the top-winner and basically forced history’s biggest social experiment with working remotely.
Despite a big drop in demand for office space in 2020, the office market appears to be recovering, as worldwide vaccination programs enable us to better manage the ongoing crisis.
Even if the corporate office isn’t disappearing any time soon, remote work is likely to continue to expand into an even wider range of industries alongside a wider adoption of AI and automation.
Where and how work gets done in the future will largely depend on companies establishing flexible practices that balance safety, worker efficiency and the demands of business success.
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