A study of history reveals that working remotely was common practice before the concepts of designated office spaces or commuting for work even existed. A way of working that enables professionals to work outside of a traditional office setting may sound like a new age, post-covid concept.
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Before the Industrial Revolution, skilled people like potters, carpenters, and blacksmiths didn’t feel the need to operate in groups, and everyone preferred working out of their homes. The isolated workers set up their shops and sold the wares from their place of residence. Society underwent a paradigm shift with the dawn of the industrial revolution which started the need for mechanization and the establishment of factories. Massive investments in plant and machinery ensured large-scale production and a need for the employees to be available in the workspace to complete their jobs. This was also the beginning of the concept of daily commutes to designated office space.
In 1970, the clean air movement laid the remarkable groundwork for remote work by highlighting one of its significant benefits which was zero commute time. Around the same time, Author Jack Nilles suggested that telecommuting could be used to reduce unwanted transportation. The thought behind this was to reduce vehicle traffic and the use of non-renewable energy resources. It wasn’t an option for people to stop working to reduce traffic and the lack of availability of vehicles that supported renewable energy resources made it a tricky situation. It was important to keep the economy running and so, it was proposed to let ‘some’ people like accountants, and clerks, who didn’t necessarily need to be in a central workplace environment, do their job from home or low-traffic sites. If we look back now, the main idea behind the concept of remote work was to reduce traffic and greenhouse gas emissions and studies have suggested that remote working does help in maintaining a cleaner environment.
Even though the pandemic has compelled a lot of companies to embrace the remote working model, including the ones that usually don’t provide a work-from-home option to their employees, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of such a flexible system. Remote work appropriately reaps the benefits of technology and opens employers to a skilled workforce not bound by geography. The long history of remote work corroborates that there is some inevitability to it, which makes it all the more a thing of the future. Some of the factors that support the same are:
The realization that productivity isn’t dependent on location
Both companies and employees are now aware of the fact that efficiency has nothing to do with where you are sitting. A lot of recent studies have indicated that remote employees accomplish more in less time and are more productive than those working in-house. Reasons like fewer interruptions, a quieter work environment, focused time, a comfortable workspace, and distance from office politics help remote workers do better.
Remote work has opened doors to a global market of highly talented and skilled professionals which will lead to an increase in competition because the companies would prefer to go for the best talent irrespective of their location. Appropriate talent and a high-speed internet connection appear to be the only prominent criteria for any remote hiring in the future, location being of least importance in the given scenario.
Leaning toward making it a permanent solution
There are a lot of positions that require zero in-person interaction so many companies are warming up to the idea of making remote work a permanent solution for such employees. Since most of the remote workers are quite satisfied and have no wish of leaving for greener pastures, companies will maintain a higher retention rate and lose less money in training recruits.
Redundancy of large physical office space
It is predicted that the need for big physical office spaces will soon become a thing of the past. As remote work would mean less office space, the offices could be redesigned by doing away with cubicles and building more substantial meeting spaces. Some organizations are even considering a more hybrid work model with a combination of remote and on-site working, keeping certain days for in-person meetings and others allocated for working remotely. In both cases, the need for a big space appears insignificant, and doing away with it will save organizations a lot of hassle and money.
Quality over quantity
More emphasis is now being given to the amount of work done instead of the number of hours worked. The remote work module has changed performance management considerably. With new tools and apps, organizations will be managing remote employee performance efficiently. Re-establishing how goals are set and ascertaining key performance metrics will help them gain visibility over what employees are doing.
Extra effort to highlight professional achievements and build interpersonal connections
One of the drawbacks of remote work is the difficulty of highlighting professional achievements. This means employees will have to work harder on expanding their engagement online to gain new opportunities. The lack of social interaction with colleagues to build connections due to the isolated nature of work makes it imperative that employees actively participate in virtual events and are dynamic in social meetings to build good relations and stand out as leaders while working from home.
To conclude, it is true that today’s workforce seeks flexibility when it comes to location and work hours. Advancements in technology have made remote work so convenient that it is as easy as sitting face-to-face with somebody. The diminishing geographical boundaries have ensured that the right talent is committed to the right job. Numerous changes will be necessary to accommodate remote work in the future, including an investment in digital infrastructure as well as new procedures and regulations. With things escalating in the manner that they currently are, it will be interesting to see the changes that the remote working model will bring to the work culture and the ambiance of many organizations in the future.