Over the years, a significant number of employees have preferred flexible work hours. During the 1980s, when cubicles were adopted in offices, a large number of office workers had been asking for flexible working- hours. This demand, especially by the women, was common even before the outbreak of a prevailing pandemic. The virus has not only acted as a catalyst to the demand, the resulting situation has forced even the employers to ask employees to work from home. Many of the trends that we saw pre-COVID are now going much faster, COVID triggered. According to a study by Mckinsey Global Institute, 80 per cent of the workforce is enjoying working from home. During the pandemic, many people have been surprised by how quickly and effectively the technologies have facilitated the practice. Meetings, conferences, education and healthcare systems are now being remotely managed.
The traditional offices are now becoming less popular. The future will see small offices with most of the staff working from home and a percentage of the workforce, in rotation, physically attending offices. The pandemic has forced a majority of the employers and employees to get grips with the digital tools for remote working, therefore, even after COVID-19, this trend will largely continue and we will retain the enhanced level of optimized remote working and collaboration. A more flexible working arrangement would undoubtedly benefit working women with children.
After the pandemic, flexibility will be the new mantra. A Gallup survey shows that 54 per cent of US workers would leave their jobs for alternative work that would allow them to work remotely. When the offices open, social distancing and the practice of wearing masks will likely to continue. There would be bigger conference rooms, meeting offices and studios.
The fear that the work from home arrangement would adversely affect office productivity has proved to be mostly wrong. A study shows that 13 per cent of the employees who worked from home were more productive. According to another study, the majority of employees who worked from home put in 1.4 more days of work per week than their office-based counterparts. It means employees working remotely would be working three more weeks in a year. Other benefits include a 25 per cent reduction in staff turnover and 77 per cent enhanced productivity. Some well-known companies have adopted remote working practice. Facebook has instructed its staff to work from home until the end of the year. Google is rotating its employees, some attending office and some working from home. Twitter has permanently adopted work from the policy.
The future of people who can work from home is promising, but the question is about the fate of millions of industrial workers, street vendors, transporters, supply chain keepers, and service providers, who are waiting for the dawn to break
The role of offices is being reassessed. At one time good offices were considered critical for employee efficiency, effectiveness and office productivity. According to Mckinsey’s research, 80 per cent of people questioned reported that they enjoy working from home. Forty per cent say that they are more productive than they had been before and 28 per cent say that they are as productive as before. Their responses were based on the time and money saved on commuting, enjoying the flexibility and creating a balance between the office and family life. The arrangement suits those working women who have been delaying bearing children.
However, there is also the downside of evolving trends. What will be missed is the exchange of ideas during tea and lunch breaks in an informal way. The mutual collaboration will not be that strong. Methods of feedback from the supervisors will have to be changed. For better results, good managers engage their team members at the touch-points of their projects and give face-to-face feedback and remove any difficulties and bottlenecks faced by their subordinates. This would become rather problematic. Methods of determining promotions and merit will have to be modified. These will be made data-centric and judged from the results produced rather than the methods adopted. Managers will do well to enhance their propensity towards extending trust towards their team members working from home and availing flexible hours.
Ensuring the cybersecurity of information and data will acquire added importance. According to a study, since 2014 security breaches have increased by 67 per cent. A laptop is stolen every 54 seconds and 92 per cent data breaches occur in one second. The World Health Organization itself saw cyber-attacks double as the pandemic spread, and a vaccine testing facility said it had been targeted for ransomware.
Home environment for efficient and effective working will have to be created. A balance between getting too comfortable and emotionally stressful environment will be needed.
The biggest problem being faced by the developing and less developed countries is the availability of the internet. Pakistan has been ranked as the least internet inclusive country in South Asia. We are ranked 76th of 100 countries on the inclusive internet index 2020 released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) falling into the last quartile of global index overall. The inclusive internet index benchmarks countries on the internet availability, affordability, relevance and readiness of the people to use it. Even in developed countries, the availability, reliability and confidentiality of the internet will have to be made possible otherwise all the plus points of working from home will lose value. The future of people who can work from home is promising, but the question is about the fate of millions of industrial workers, street vendors, transporters, supply chain keepers, and service providers, who are waiting for the dawn to break.
While the devastating impact of COVID 19 will continue to haunt us financially and emotionally long after the pandemic but, the good thing is that the employers and employees have gained valuable insight into more efficient and effective tomorrow.
This article was originally published at: https://dailytimes.com.pk/641636/covid-19-the-future-of-work-from-home/
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.