The world has been directly and indirectly impacted by the global pandemic in many ways and
realms of the economy. In the early months of the year, we witnessed the infamous Coronavirus
became a threat to humanity spreading throughout the globe at an inconceivable rate. This brought
about movement restrictions in several countries where policies were imposed to prevent the spread
of the virus by limiting public gathering, enforcing social distancing, and implementing strict
sanitatIon measures. Countries like Mauritius have had their borders closed to standard commercial
flights since March. For a country whose GDP mostly relies on tourism, this says a lot about how
devastated the Coronavirus has left the world.
With the ensuing of strict social distancing policies and as businesses face a bleak set of options:
continue business as usual but with the risk of grave illness, shut down the business, or transition to
working from home. Many companies have rather transitioned to remote working arrangements.
Months into the global Coronavirus Pandemic, the remote working arrangements that felt temporary
are beginning to feel much more permanent. It did not take long before some major global
companies began to acknowledge the relevance and benefits of remote work and started
establishing strategies for this year and beyond. Google has let its staff work from home until the end
of the year. Twitter has allowed their staff to choose to work from home forever. Facebook plans to
have at least 50% of their workforce working remotely within 5 – 10 years. According to Facebook,
the main benefits or remote work are:
- A boost in employee productivity
- positive environmental impact because of the 17% drop in global emissions since the start of
- the pandemic because of the limit in commute
- Better quality of lives for the employees
- Improved ability to develop technology as the remote work situation has broadened
Yet, while the world has experienced a rise in remote working, there are many challenges to broader
adoption – ranging from workplace norms and stigma to the need for effective management of
remote teams to more general productivity benefits of in-person work that are difficult to replicate
remotely (due to unplanned physical workplace interactions, for example). Moreover, there are
important logistical constraints and remote working is simply not feasible for some jobs.
Collaboration can be quite challenging if the team is scattered across time zones and if effective
communication channels have not been established. In addition to this, attaining a healthy work-life
balance has been quite difficult for some because they find it difficult to set boundaries between
work and personal life. For those with kids in their families, it can be difficult to navigate work while
keeping an eye on the kids.
There also are some challenges which have to do with self-restraint and discipline. Most people’s
homes are their comfort zones, and it can be very tempting to snooze your alarm through the day
and stay in bed. One of the challenges I have personally struggled with most has been keeping away
from the fridge. It is so difficult to fight the urge to grab some food from the fridge when there is a
variety, and it all belongs to you. Also, there is always the temptation to nibble on something
especially when you are either working on something interesting or when you are working on
something challenging. This call for one to flex their self-discipline muscles.
Remote work is, in many ways, a privilege. Working remotely implies access to both material and
immaterial infrastructure like the availability of a working computer at home, access to internet and
Activities that can be executed from home. It is rather unfortunate that in some communities,
internet access can be quite a hustle making it almost impossible to complete online tasks and
attend an online meeting. And for those who have not been able to transition to remote work
because of the nature of their job, they must keep risking exposing themselves to the virus.
We have also witnessed an increase in innovative email greetings. I bet most of the world has
received an email with the intro – “I hope you are well and keeping safe” or “I hope you and your
family are well and healthy”. One of the intros that drew my attention recently is “I hope you are
keeping positive and testing negative”. Some people have expressed how challenging it is to decide
how to address the current crisis when reaching out by email, especially in a professional setting. It
seems to be that the pandemic has affected the standard email etiquette.
Remote working is an opportunity for companies to change their way of working sustainably and
reap the benefits over the medium to long term. Consider less office space (lack thereof), less
commuting, fewer business trips, limited breaks, and greater focus for employees. Feedback from
the market seems to indicate that remote workers are also less likely to take short absences due to
illness. It can also have a positive impact on the remuneration system of companies and provide
insights into (HR) opportunities. Remote working on a larger scale also offers companies the
flexibility to deal with unexpected events in the future. Finally, remote working can give a renewed
boost to cooperation and cohesion.
Investing in remote working will have far-reaching consequences on the way we work after the crisis.
Remote working is here to stay and will more than ever become an integral part of the way we work.
Now is the time for companies to prepare for this ‘back to the new normal’.