It has been proved time and time again, that the best way to provoke radical change is by introducing a shock. This year, with the Covid-19 pandemic, a routine that seemed unstoppable was shattered to bits. Everyone, from individuals to companies and governments had to adapt.
For some time, everything stopped in place, with strict lockdown rules, curfews, and closing non-essential businesses. However, this was not sustainable, as economies depend on output and growth. Thus, most companies turned to new work from home policies. But what does this mean for a post-pandemic future? Will we ever go back to our old routine?
Of course, telecommuting, in its essence, is not a new concept. With the recent empowerment of employees in many industries, as well as having more women in the workforce needing to balance work and family, flexibility became a primordial demand. New schedules emerged, such as compressed workweeks, flexible hours, or remote work. And although many companies were already offering these options to their employees, some businesses have only recently opened up to the idea.
Working from home presents both advantages and disadvantages. The main advantages are that it offers more independence, the opportunity to set working hours, less time and money spent on transportation, as well as more focus on some. On the other hand, most disadvantages are intrinsically related to the human aspects of the job. Working from home means communication issues. A team might be obliged to limit itself to videoconferences, and calls, where it might be difficult to brainstorm or pay attention to physical cues and signals. This would mean that team spirit would be weakened, turning organizational cultures more individualistic on the long-term. Employees will feel more attached to the job than to the company, decreasing their loyalty and sense of community. Also, with employees all over the world, team-building exercises, promotions, and celebrations will become scarce, as employees will not feel the need to invest time and energy in non-work activities.
All in all, the world is facing a battle between conveniency and community. Is there a way to include the social in our new normal? Many companies seem to think so. One example would be Facebook, who recently stated that most employees will have the option to work from home permanently. It is still unclear how many will choose to make this leap, which entails giving up on a lot of control. It will be more difficult for managers to supervise the work being done, but with the developing technology, some challenges might disappear soon, and visionary companies are already researching the best way to change the rules of the game we are so used to playing.
And just like in every game, there are winners and losers. Work from home would be a huge win for companies such as Zoom, which thrive on remote communication, but other players must find new ways to boost their offerings. One example would be WeWork, a company that provides flexible shared workspace. If offices become obsolete, many jobs will be as well, as others will be indirectly affected, such as real estate or restauration.
In my opinion, and at least in the short term, it would be better to gravitate towards a hybrid system, limiting unessential commutes, but still engaging employees to encourage teamwork and camaraderie. In the end, we must not forget that having a job is not solely about earning a salary, it is also an experience to grow and learn from people with experience, before teaching the next generation. This cycle is essential in ensuring perpetual growth to reach new heights and challenge what is given.