The most popular trend over the past year has been remote work. The pandemic has introduced a completely new beast: remote work. In the past, new technologies and shifting supply chains were the biggest workplace disruptions.
The question has evolved Will remote working disappear by 2022?
As companies look to bring their workers back to the office, it seems as though the death of remote working is inevitable. A recent study by Harvard has shown that when caught between the choice between returning to work or unemployment, it’s been shown that over 57% of the workforce will opt for the former rather than the latter.
But why are businesses looking to bring their employees back into the office full-time and what is so bad about remote work?
Let’s take a look.
What is Remote Work?
Professionals can live a lifestyle that allows them to work remotely outside of the typical office setting. Because of the presence of terms such as “Hybrid Work”, it would be safe to say that remote work is location-independent – meaning that you can work in any way, from anywhere, at all times.
Thus, the only way to communicate with your officemates or management would be through virtual meetings and phone calls.
The issue with remote work is that people aren’t designed to interact solely with screens. Non-verbal gestures are often more effective at conveying subtleties in human language.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Let’s look at the reasons why fully remote working won’t survive.
Will Remote Work Continue?
It’s been over two years since the pandemic changed the world forever, and the trend shows that remote work opportunities will continue to increase, with 25% of all professional North America-based jobs going remote by the end of 2022.
The people have spoken, and they want to work from home – with workers globally stating they would take a 5% pay cut to stay remote, and many saying they’d look elsewhere for a job if forced to return to the office. In order to compete with other businesses for qualified candidates, businesses will need to offer some form of remote work opportunity.
It will take longer for some sectors and professions to make the transition, such as frontline work. However, as technology advances and employers warm to the concept, it’s likely that even many traditionally frontline jobs will find ways to become at least partly flexible and/or remote.
5 Reasons Why Remote Working Will Die
There are a lot of articles online that are in favor of WFH. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows; I’m sure you can think of some compelling reasons for yourself. Here are some explanations for why remote work may become extinct.
Reason 1.) Social Interaction Just Isn’t the Same
Workplace comfort is one of the main advantages of working in an office. This entails having coworkers and experts nearby who are prepared to respond to any queries you might have or offer assistance with a problem you’re having.
As you meet new people and learn about their other projects, conversations in the hallway or over lunch at a cafeteria table can sometimes lead to the best discussions and ideas.
But you won’t engage in as much social interaction when you work from home. It’s not the same as speaking to people face-to-face when you can only see them on a screen. Let’s face it: Attending daily standups on-site as opposed to in front of a computer screen requires much more concentration.
In order to stare at a computer screen, humans did not evolve.
Many people overlook the fact that work is also a social environment and that being in a physical office satisfies the primal human need for social interaction. For that reason, I whole-heartedly believe that work-from-home will never completely replace the physical office.
Sure, there are software tools like Slack that could help close the communication gap between remote teams and internal staff, but even the most notification-dependent person will miss out on company news, including crucial executive updates or the most recent office rumors.
Reason 2.) Work-Life Balance is Non-Existent
Every organization should aim for a results-oriented strategy. Given that they maintain or surpass the quality standard they have already set for themselves, this gives the people the freedom to choose the number of hours they work.
That said, flexibility means that as a remote worker, there is the possibility that you could work less or more than the usual 8-hour shift.
This implies that your work-life balance is essentially nonexistent when you work remotely. There will be days when work and upcoming deadlines consume all of your thoughts, particularly if no one is around to distract you.
Not the employees, but the management, is the issue here. Many organizations that I’ve come across fail to understand the concept of “time boundaries”, they set meetings well into the night and expect people to still show up.
While this may be great for the first couple of weeks, it’s the shortest path to impending burnout. The reduction of stress, anxiety, and the potential for depression depends entirely on work-life balance. In the end, it’s the best way to avoid burnout and guarantee that you can work and produce high-quality outputs at a sustainable pace.
Reason 3.) Management Chains Will Change
While employees no longer have to pay for transportation, a New York Times article notes that this has made them more susceptible to distractions and therefore more likely to lose productivity.
But more importantly, it has assisted executives in identifying which positions are crucial to their company’s operations and which are not.
Jeffrey Gundlack, CEO of DoubleLine Capital, has said this in his monthly webcast: “I kind of learned who was really doing the work and who was not really doing as much work as it looked like on paper that they might have been doing,” he said. With “some of the supervisory, middle-management people,” he added, “I’m starting to wonder if I really need them.”
While this shifting chain in management is necessary for the virtual revolution to be completed, one can’t ignore the fact that this shift in office dynamics, where individuals are given more autonomy to manage their tasks on a day-to-day basis, is a tough pill to swallow for mid-level managers.
Reason 4.) Companies Look to Bring Employees Back
By now, you should be aware that businesses are attempting to rehire their staff. According to a Harvard Business Review report, at least 56% of businesses want to have workers return to the workplace for at least one day per week.
Even a one-office-day per week arrangement doesn’t fit under the definition of remote working because it necessitates a location-independent profession. You should be able to produce for your company from any location thanks to remote working. If you’re required to be in the office for one day a week, then how can you say that you’re truly working remotely?
From the same report, only 26% of companies are looking to employ a remote work setting for their employees – leaving everyone else in a hybrid setup that may or may not last depending on the productivity levels that employees sustain.
Reason 5.) Personal Discipline Challenges
There are two things I’d like to address here: the TV and the Zoom Meeting. It can be very difficult for some people to remain interested while working. Others have no trouble maintaining the discipline required to work from home.
Unfortunately, you’ll most likely fall into the category of the former than the latter.
Matt Valentine from Goalcast believes that to build a habit, you must utilize a principle known as the path of least resistance.
When you’re in the middle of a meeting, and you have the choice of either listening in and taking down notes or tuning out and scrolling through your phone, do you understand why you choose the latter instead of the former? It seems easier to mentally switch off and unwind than it does to concentrate and take notes.
You’re already at home and your phone is right next to you. Nobody can watch you or keep tabs on what you do. In contrast, listening in requires you to grab a pen and notebook, block out all distractions, and focus solely on the meeting.
It’s vegetable time, so that seems to be the only option.
It’s the path of least resistance and it’s the path that most people will be looking to take.
In order to get around this, you’ll likely need careful behavioral monitoring and a long adjustment period before you find your groove in a work from home environment.
The question of whether this results in more productive workers is now more clearly answered. In fact, it’s actually been found that remote work actually boosts productivity. According to a recent Stanford study, a group of 16,000 workers’ productivity increased by 13% over the course of 9 months when they worked from home. On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are thus 47% more productive, as stated in a report from Apollotechnical.
But this raises the issue of balancing work and life again. Working “one more day a week” in a 5-day workweek is inconducive for work-life balance – it leaves you one day a week for required errands, household chores, and family time. Your brain can refocus and unwind by taking regular breaks. If you’re working 6 days a week, are you really relaxing?
Will Hybrid Working Last?
I want it to be clear that throughout the entirety of this article, I have only ever considered remote work to be fully remote, which means you won’t have to come into the office for even a single day. Because remote work should be independent of location. Otherwise, it’s not remote – you’re just working from home.
That said, if there are days that you’ll be allowed to work from home, then you’ll fall under the category of hybrid working.
The movement for remote work’s brightest star is hybrid working. With almost 60% of companies allowing for remote work, hybrid working will not only last but will also continue to grow over the next decade. 53% of workers want a hybrid working model and the past few months have proven that hybrid working does not come with a loss of productivity and is, therefore, a possible more flexible solution to a generation quickly burning out.
How Can We Deal With the Death of Working Remotely
- Instead of remote work, hybrid work can be an alternative to working remotely. Many white-collar workers are willing to return to the office even for a few days in a week.
- Employers can consistently keep in touch with employees one-on-one via video conference service platforms.
- Maintaining a work-life balance is very important. Outside of work hours, employees are free to visit with their loved ones.
- Do not talk business with your employees out of working hours.
- Scheduling weekly meetings can prevent consistent communication issues.
- Using technological devices more effectively and increasing productivity can enable to continue working remotely.