Remote Work During the Pandemic versus Remote as Normality
A brief survey among your friends with different professions will help you see from a broad perspective a phenomenon that we are going through right now: in terms of remote work, we are already at a different stage from what has happened in the pandemic.
Organizations everywhere are clustering around new work models in an attempt to preserve and harness what they have learned about flexibility over the past year and a half. Gradually, we move from the sensation of a global experiment forced by sanitary circumstances to a creative and enthusiastic approach to remote work.
Leaders in many areas have understood the growth potential offered by telecommuting. They are currently looking for the most appropriate formulas to propagate this advantage after the relaxation or complete elimination of pandemic restrictions.
Working during the pandemic – an atypical remote exercise
Switching from “forced remote” to “remote as a free choice” is not exempt from some challenges. Even if we embrace this long-term change with confidence, the large-scale implementation of a remote formula suitable for each organization remains an unprecedented situation.
The pandemic has given us an important starting point in this regard. It has accelerated a process that we can now shape more easily, depending on the peculiarities of our activity. Still, in order to find optimal remote solutions, it is necessary to distinguish between what was uncommon in the pandemic and what remote would mean as a normality for our business and life style.
- For both employers and employees, the pandemic stimulated the spontaneity and improvisation of quick solutions, initially designed to ensure continuity for up to a few months. The ones who correctly anticipated the magnitude of this phenomenon were not many at the beginning. As we gained experience in working from home, the extension of the pandemic restrictions has thus allowed some specific adjustments that can now serve as the basis for long-term remote implementation.
- In most organizations, the lack of internal procedures for such a vast state of emergency has contributed greatly to the initial sense of chaos that employees felt working from home. Willingly or not, everyone had to take more initiative, manage their own work, assess when and how to act in the absence of long-prepared directives. Surprisingly, this has shown us how effective we can be when we are granted more autonomy at work.
- For employers, this forced transition to telework involved rapid technological adaptation. Overnight, companies had to supplement the number of laptops (in some cases hundreds) and to solve numerous IT new requirements.
- Another special challenge was the psycho-emotional impact of the entire pandemic context. Employers did not only have to adjust the working flow, but also to provide emotional support to their employees. Some companies did this by facilitating assistance from specialists in psychology and health. Organizations had to show more empathy for each employee’s personal situation, as many people worked from home in constant distraction, while social isolation deeply affected others.
- A peculiarity of the pandemic has thus become the blurred line between our professional and personal lives. This period has forced us to equate remote work with work from home, which is quite far from the full definition of a remote normality. Under normal circumstances, working outside the office does not only mean working from home, but it gives us more mobility.
- A remote strategy leads to increased productivity. During the pandemic, however, many companies have associated this type of work with an undesired switch to the “survival” mode. At the beginning, they were concerned with minimizing financial losses rather than embracing this solution as an opportunity for progress.
Remote as a long-term strategy
At the current stage, we already know that we can exploit the benefits of remote work more than the pandemic conditions have allowed us to.
- Most companies choose a hybrid work model for the future. They do not give up their offices completely. Instead, a process of rethinking workspaces is happening, which means turning them into collaborative spaces: teams can gather at the office or in coworking spaces when more interaction and face-to-face discussions are needed. During the rest of the time, people can work remotely on their own, both in alternative spaces and at home.
- This approach eliminates the inconvenience of social isolation, as well as certain difficulties of collaboration and communication that some employees have complained about in the pandemic.
- By remaining partially or fully remote, organizations can benefit from broadening their recruitment choices and from the retention of employees, who in turn gain greater satisfaction and a better professional – personal life balance. This is definitely a win-win situation.
So where exactly are we now? Undoubtedly, we are beginning to witness the normalization of the remote phenomenon, an inevitable large-scale change.
How do you contribute to it?