The coronavirus crisis proves remote work will be much-in-demand
We are still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and yet we are already seeing the big winners and losers of this crisis looming: those who were prepared or at least tried to go online and used the technological advance, and those who were not
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic forced thousands - even millions - of people to work from home, either because they were infected with the virus, or to limit the risks they could be. With the quarantine measures taken to limit the spread of the coronavirus, many companies were forced to adapt to stay in business. The first response has often been the same - massive use of remote work.
What will happen once the measures are lifted? Can it profoundly change the world of work by permanently disrupting its codes?
Impossible to go back It is not known, however, when the government-imposed quarantine will end. But yet today it seems fair to say that the current health crisis will inevitably have considerable repercussions on the world of work.
The current situation will probably make employees wonder, ‘If I can work remotely today, was my physical presence essential before? And once the confinement is lifted, why should I go back to the office?’ Thus, we could witness a general questioning of face-to-face meetings, often criticized for their ineffectiveness.
Companies may also want to extend the experience because some of them invest in the comfort of their employees’ homes. This is the case of Twitter which offers its employees to refund the expenses incurred by the development of their home office. For such organizations, the investment will undoubtedly be more profitable over time.
Revolution in progress?
So are we going to observe the next boom in remote working? What if the presence in the office becomes the exception (one day a week, for example)? Many experts imagine that the coronavirus pandemic will lead to ‘the remote work revolution’. In this context, it would be relevant for almost 10% of the workforce.
How would this change affect employees? First, it’s the flexibility at work, which in particular makes it possible to avoid long journeys or the rigidity preventing staying at home when a family member is sick. It is already noted the first benefit of the new working pattern and it is counterintuitive - the geographic distance between employees ultimately creates a feeling of good workplace relationships, community, and even solidarity.
And what would be the consequences for organizations? They would also benefit from the new momentum. It is proved that sometimes working remotely increases companies’s performance by 10-13%. An improvement, which was mainly explained by... working longer hours. And it makes perfect sense – people use the time they used to spend commuting to do something productive at work.
Remote work winners
Some companies get an advantage of such a shift. These are the creators of tools promoting remote working, such as Slack or Zoom. In the current context, the two companies have offered a part of their services for free, a path is also taken by Microsoft, with its suite of professional software. But everyone knows that this is also a way to encourage the adoption of their solutions. The conditions, therefore, seem to appear for more massive use of remote work in the future.
But not all companies and not all employees are ready to go online just like that. Meetings are canceled. Press conferences, fairs too. Employees are encouraged to stop attending seminars. Faced with the coronavirus crisis, one of the first reactions of the world of work was withdrawal into their homes, and in particular via remote work. There are yet a lot of things we should figure out in this new reality.
Prepare for the remote work boom
In Europe alone, hundreds of thousands of people have been working remotely for a few weeks now because of the quarantine orders issued by their governments to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
And, unless there is a big surprise, those who work from home will have to do it for weeks more before the pandemic is under control and there is a decrease in the number of people infected.
However, many people take a liking to remote working because it helps find the work-family balance. Imagine when schools reopen and parents can work more comfortably at home.
In this context, it is difficult to see how all these people who work from home will give up the advantages of remote work overnight. While many will be happy to return to their offices, there is no doubt they will want more flexibility.
It’s pretty much self-evident - because of labor shortages, employers who show openness and facilitate remote work will more easily recruit new employees, and will keep them longer.
You will need to speed up your digital transformation
The coronavirus pandemic affects all businesses differently.
While many companies are closing their doors for falling demand and quarantine, others are still staying in business, such as for instance, finance, law and engineering.
There are activities or services that are naturally difficult to produce or deliver remotely, starting with catering, manufacturing, construction, entertainment or event management.
That said, the status quo is really no longer an option. We reached a breakpoint when you either adapt or go bust.
Many companies will have to brainstorm the ways to continue their activities remotely and deliver their services (fully or partially) using modern and emerging technologies.
You can imagine, for example, assembly lines that can be operated online or shows that can be presented in person or remotely (with prices adjusted accordingly).
Perhaps the resilient restaurants or cafes of tomorrow will be the ones that can both serve their customers on the spot and for takeout.
Quarantine measures are an unexpected boon for the digital economy. E-commerce platforms, remote working, distance learning or even video games are essential for everyone, not to mention the Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and such, which will become even more significant in our lives. This global crisis will undoubtedly generate structural changes which will develop new activities. Many companies will find growth levers in the crisis, while others will endure their inability to evolve in a world where digital acceleration continues.
However, it will play out, now we know that a new crisis should never paralyze the economy as it does now, and this is one of the key reasons remote work is here to stay.