When Covid-19 hit with full brutality, it forced the world into a global workplace experiment around remote working. Interestingly, remote working has shattered age-old skepticisms and is proving to be actually beneficial for knowledge-based organizations. While remote work has led to a greater physical distance between people and their work environments, this distance is now bridged by technologies focused on collaboration and communication, to the extent that one need not be physically present in the office to complete a task.
The future of work is undoubtedly gearing towards remote work, not so much by choice but accelerated by the impact of the pandemic that pummelled the world over a year ago. According to Global Workplace Analytics, it is estimated that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home most days of the week by the end of 2021. By 2025, some 70% of the workforce will work remotely at least five days a month. Consider a recent Gartner CFO survey which found that 74% of companies plan to permanently shift employees to remote work post COVID-19. That’s telling of the future of work.
For now, most people still have a choice between the cushy office and the comfortable home for their work environment. Perhaps some of us are already experiencing a blend of both. For those who are thinking about ditching office desks for remote working, it is pertinent to note that while remote working may well define the future of work, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It may be tempting to conjure up a 100% remote schedule with a ‘work-anywhere’ attitude, but unless you can answer a resounding yes to the below questions, hold on to your desks first.
This is not a trick question. The reality of remote working is working alone most of the time. And to be a remote worker, this is probably the first prerequisite. Even if you work in a coworking space or at a cafe, chances are that you will likely be working alone by yourself, albeit with colleagues who are online. For most introverted people, this is a godsend. No incessant (and unnecessary) office banter, no disruptive last minute meetings, no impromptu discussion sessions. Some extroverted people may find this tough, as they enjoy the office buzz and thrive on being in the centre of social activity. This doesn’t mean that extroverted people aren’t able to work alone, they just have to learn how to manage feelings of isolation or even loneliness. Thankfully, with the flexibility of remote work and telecommuting technology such as Slack, one can fix that by being intentional about making time for social activities.
Truth be told, you can’t really go remote if you are a technophobe. You’ll find it hard to collaborate with remote colleagues without the right tools for communication. The good news is that communication technology these days are easy to use. If you are curious and willing to invest time in learning how to harness the potential of such technology, then you might find that working remotely will be a great fit for you.
Let’s face it. Remote working isn’t a bed of roses. Sure, you have that extra hour in bed as there’s no need for commute time to the office. But that doesn’t mean you should laze in or log on in your pyjamas. That might sound comfortable, but it might be too comfortable. Or you might be tempted to open another tab on your computer for some harmless online shopping while you are working. After all, you’re in the comfort of your own kitchen with no boss in the vicinity. The trouble is: if you allow yourself to slip into these comforts, then self-motivation will take a backseat. And we know where that’s going - a lazy driver should never be behind the wheel.
Remote working, especially if you are working from home, blurs the line between office and home. As good as working-from-home sounds, it can come with many distractions. Screaming children, seniors demanding attention, neighbours dropping by, dirty laundry and dishes that need cleaning. It is important to communicate clearly with family members that just because you’re home doesn’t mean you are available. Create a workspace in the home where you can be undisturbed or head to a coworking space where you can focus on work. Draw some boundaries and keep that line intact for your sanity.
One of the perks of remote working is that you can work anywhere. But if it is too easy to fire up a laptop and work from anywhere in the house, even in bed; then you’re just signaling to your brain that the bed is a place for work. Eventually, it will be hard to convince your brain that the bed is for rest.
Too many people fall prey to working overtime as a remote worker. The flexibility of remote work, if unmanaged, can turn work hours into endless work nights. It is all too easy to compensate for lost daytime hours by working overtime (aka after the children’s bedtime). Develop a clock-out system, and abide by it.
At the end of it all, it’s probably not about whether remote working is for you. Rather, can you make remote working work? It takes a whole lot of self-drive, motivation and minimal tolerance for distractions. But, don’t be too quick to dismiss the idea entirely. Remote working is one of those things that you have to try in order to decide if it’ll work for you.
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Laura Farrer, 5 Proven benefits Of Remote Work For Companies, Forbes, (12 Feb 2020)
Caroline Castrillon, This Is The Future Of Remote Work In 2021, Forbes, (27 Dec 2020)
Kate Lister, Latest Work-At-Home/Telecommuting/Mobile Work/Remote Work Statistics Globalworkplaceanalytics.com, (Mar 2020)
Rani Molla, How Remote Work Is Quietly Remaking Our Lives, Vox.com, (9 Oct 2019)
Press Release, Gartner CFO Survey Reveals 74% Intend to Shift Some Employees to Remote Work Permanently, Gartner (3 Apr, 2020)