WFH after COVID - Is Remote the new normal?
It would not be an exaggeration if we emphasize that if there was something that has saved companies from complete wipe-out and employees from getting fired after the pandemic, it was work from home mode of operation.
We are aware that lockdown was the only solution to contain the spread of coronavirus but it also meant complete shutdown of all offline, on-site work and operations except essential services. Many, even the big-wig firms managed to get their operations going on even during the difficult times through the WFH mode. Employees too extended their support and it was for the first time in history that maximum work was handled remotely.
Due to COVID-19, WFH became the new normal during early 2020 and according to an estimate nearly 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. [i]
Working from home Statistics – What the Numbers Tell You
Let’s talk about how WFH culture has settled down and what are its chief statistics. First, from the employee perspective.
Time spent working remotely prior to COVID-19 and now
As many as 56 percent respondents of a survey [ii] have been working remotely for less than a year. These workers are now termed as remote workers.
Workers Wish a Status Quo
In another survey, as many as 65 percent of remote workers responded that they wanted to continue and work from home. While 58 percent others were of the opinion that they would look for a new job if they would have to return to the office. [iii]
Surprising Statistics About WFH
Now, let us see some surprising facts about WFH [iv] which in a sense make it a strong candidate for being the ‘new normal’ and allow us to infer that the trend might continue even after this crisis is contained.
As many as 88% of the companies have ‘encouraged or required’ their employees to work from home and 91% in Asia Pacific region have implemented ‘work from home’ arrangements since the outbreak.
Around one-third of the respondents believe that Coronavirus triggered work from home mode at their company.
Remote workers were found to be around 35% to 40% more productive compared to those who work in corporate offices.
Operational expenses also saw a big dip. 77% of executives emphasized that WFH or remote work mode will lower the operating costs significantly.
However, two-third of the top-level executives were worried about ‘continuity and productivity’ during the pandemic.
Cloud investment in SaaS and video conferencing or video chat platforms saw a massive jump in usage and subscriptions. Zoom saw a tremendous increase in the number of its daily participants from just 10 million in December to as many as 200 million. Similar was the case with Microsoft 365 video or Teams. Total calls on Teams grew by over 1,000 percent.
WFH also seems to have set in a fair weather for cybercriminals. As per reports, Microsoft detected a massive phishing campaign.
Remote work is here to stay. 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post COVID.
Advantages of employees working from home
With increasing numbers of employees working at home - or using home as a working base for at least part of the week - it's clear there are a number of benefits [vi], such as:
Flexibility and agility in work hours
Improved employee retention
Attraction for new talent as home working can be offered as an incentive
Productivity Booster and is Convenient - Working from home provides a quieter environment for focused work. Employees can work longer hours as there is no time consumed in commuting.
Better work/life balance - Employees can balance their work and home routine according to their convenience.
Less investment on staff health - Less sickness absences as employees remain at home away from all health and other hazards.
Lower Operations Costs - WFH mode seems to be a blessing for both the workers and the companies as it saves a lot of money of the staff on conveyance, etc. while the companies need to maintain full-fledged office for lot of employees.
What may keep WFH from becoming the new normal
WFH may seem to be a credible solution but it too has a lot of downsides which are not ignorable.
Here are a few obvious ones…
Unavailability of Technology and infrastructure
Poor SaaS performance
Network latency issues
Staff seeking expansion of remote work hours
Here are some more specific reasons…
Unsuitable for some – Some employees might have such job responsibility which make WFH unsuitable for their role in the organization. While some employees might require direct face-to-face interaction with their seniors or colleagues. WFH may not be suitable for some as they do not have a WFH-conducive home environment.
Partial Alienation – Some may feel themselves disconnected from their colleagues and company as being away physically might force them to believe as if they are not actual part of the organization.
Performance Evaluation troubles – Managing, setting benchmarks and evaluation of performance of WFH workers is one of the biggest roadblocks in making WFH as the new normal.
Lurking Burnout – WFH might result that remote workers forget to strike a balance between office and home hours and might end up working for more hours and eventually burnout or fatigue.
WFH Costs – Infrastructure and training costs of WFH are high and not all infrastructure at the home comply with all safety and health standards.
Development and Training – WFH remote workers might not have effectual staff development and skills training essential for their and their firm’s upgradation.
Risk of Information Leak, Disclosure (IT security and risks) – Workers might not be able keep their devices such as laptop etc. fully secured and information might leak or it may get compromised.
Home working suits some jobs only – Not all jobs are suitable with WFH. Some jobs such as front office, customer handling etc. need to be done at the office only.
IT hiccups – Low broadband speeds, power disruptions, other such factors also significantly impact efficacy of WFH.
Is Work from Home here to stay?
If Covid is going to stay then we may say that WFH will also continue and despite its virtual nature, organizations will find ways to reduce its downsides. At the moment and after almost one and a half years into Covid, it seems that working from home is here to stay. Most employees seem to have adjusted themselves to the work-from-home mode of culture and its policies [v].