The ‘Remote Work’ War

The 2020 pandemic has forced more and more of us to work from home. The new shift of how we work has started a discussion between those who want a more flexible lifestyle and those on the fence or stuck in old office-centric ways.

What is remote working? 

Remote working is defined as when employees do not commute to or work from a central location. The employee chooses to work from home, a coffee shop or anywhere else they see fit. 

Your employer can offer you the option of remote work for a number of reasons; (1) They do not have a physical office and are happy for you to work from anywhere of your comfort. (2) You’re hired as a freelancer. Being a freelancer or a contractor means that you are not usually confined to one place to work, or work hours. As a freelancer you are seen as a remote entrepreneur. (3) Flexible option, this type of remote working usually means where you have an agreement in place with your employer on the number of days you can work in the office.

There are a number of posts on LinkedIn from CEOs talking about how they have seen either an increase or decrease in productivity, the comments section are filled with people arguing about the pros and cons of remote working. There are posts from people who have already been working remotely for a while and enjoy it. They offer tips on how to work better away from the office. They also share the advantages or disadvantages of remote working. 

There is a clear disagreement when it comes to remote working not just from CEOs but also employees.

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What’s the problem?

The ‘war’ is that there are people who want to scrap working from home completely. The main reason for this is that there are those who believe we are losing a form of human interaction,that we are isolating ourselves which can be detrimental to our mental health. There are stats out there that have shown an increase in depression, anxiety and mental health. The increase has not been helped with the lockdown which has further limited human interaction.

According to Nature before the pandemic between January – June 2019 it was reported 11% of US adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Now compared to December 2020 (During the pandemic) where it was reported 42% of US adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression.

This puts in a valid point that remote work is not the main factor to the increase in mental health issues. We have been forced to isolate ourselves because of the pandemic. Social interaction was effectively zero, this would have had an effect on people who have spent the majority of their working lives in the office or around people. Studies have shown that younger people feel the effect of reduced social interaction more than their older counterparts. This makes sense with them having a stronger urge to interact with people.

As the world returns to a new norm, as things open up and as we can have more human interactions, maybe remote working will not be viewed as something detrimental to our mental health.

The communication barrier becomes difficult with remote working. Working remotely would mean being dependent on messaging apps and video calls. This is not a major concern but you can be left waiting a while for something that could have been answered straight away if the person was right next to you. This is more of a process problem. As remote or flexible working becomes more common, we will see better software tools readily available and communication apps improve which would make it easier to communicate in a team. 

There are people who are extroverts or social butterflies by nature. For these people, working remotely can be very tough.

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We Love Remote Working

Remote working has been welcomed by some with excitement. It has been viewed as a new refreshing way of working than the traditional 9 to 5. 

The ‘9 to 5’ work schedule was made popular by Henry Ford in the 1920s. Even though it was made popular by Fords Motor it was actually created in the 1800s by American Unions. It later became the standard once the fair labor standard act in 1938 came to pass. This law was passed to stop the exploitation of factory workers. The 9 to 5 or the 8 hour work a day lifestyle does seem illogical as you are paying people for the time spent in the office as to how much work they have actually done. 

Remote working allows people to experience a more flexible work life. The flexibility has allowed workers to utilise their time wisely. If an employee wants to go out shopping, attend a dentist appointment or even have a quick nap they can without the awkward feeling of asking. They can plan their life around work leading to better mental health.

Remote working has benefitted employers too. Employers can hire talent not based on a specific geographical location. They can have a person working at different times which would not have been possible when restricted to an office.

One thing that is not discussed about the advantage of remote working is the reduced carbon footprint. You are doing your bit to help the environment by not travelling as much. In the UK, transport emission accounts for 21% of the Carbon footprint. Commuting does damage to the environment through the hours spent in traffic jams, and not to mention the carbon output of travelling back and forth to work on a daily basis. Companies who are constantly promoting being ‘Green’ and supporting the change to protect our planet should not be afraid to allow their employees to work from home.

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Conclusion  

The pandemic has shown that a lot of jobs can be done remotely. We are experiencing a new norm that is changing the way we work. Companies have to adapt with this change or risk losing talent who want that remote working option. They cannot stay and rely on ‘9 to 5’ office style of work. The big tech companies will for sure expect employees to work from the office as they have spent millions on state of the art buildings. They will offer more flexible working hours, and have days where employees can work from home. This is the balance for a lot of companies, offering remote work permanently or a mix of working in the office and at home.

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