Transitioning to remote work after COVID-19?
While it is still early to draw conclusions, the world is very unlikely to be the same after the pandemic. Remote work is now a societal experiment on a scale we’ve never witnessed before.
Few days ago, Slack team published a fascinating nationwide survey of employees from knowledge industries responding to the new reality in the US. Almost 3000 people in 50 states were interviewed, to find out how they feel working from home and to what extent their work tasks can be fulfilled remotely.
An estimated 16 million of U.S. knowledge workers switched to remote already in March and the number is very likely to be much higher now (50-60 million?).
In fact, post-industrial service economies of the developed world allow most of us to work from home, which makes the world more resilient to any pandemic, compared to the past.
As the survey reports, for the majority of knowledge employees working from home comes with no or just moderate difficulty. In all but few areas: healthcare, education, research and (surprisingly) customer support.
While some knowledge industry areas (like surgery or nuclear physics) require on-site presence, for the others remote work appears to be a question of adaptation and habitude. Both for an individual and for a company.
To the best of our knowledge at TimeFlip, no profound research was made regarding adaptation time needed to switch to remote work. As a rule of thumb, it takes a human about 2 months until new behavior becomes automatic, but this particular case is sure an opportunity for sociologists to study.
Slack study draws a very distinctive line between a rookie and veteran remote worker, revealing feedback that is poles apart. Nearly one-third of newly remote workers say that working from home has negatively affected their productivity, while 60% of those having remote experience find it to be more productive.
About a quarter of rookie remote workers are less satisfied working from home, and again 72% of veterans say that they’re more satisfied and efficient working remotely.
There is also a big discrepancy between the two in their connection with colleagues: 45% of newly remote workers complain sense of belonging suffers at home, yet 47% of veteran say it is actually better at home than in the office.
With little (if any) options left for on-site work, it is an employer’s goal to make transition to remote work for newcomers as soft and painless, as possible. Some crucial points to be considered for the management are:
- Remote work makes everyone quickly realize that dedication and involvement are not measured by the hours spent in the office anymore. Clear definition of team goals and each person’s contribution are essential to ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction. This means your company’s strategy shall be well communicated.
- Having a remote work plan in advance and an educational support in the form of a webinar or a blog is essential for your employees going remote. This is way more important for all non-IT industries, which did not have previous experience of their staff working from home. Good news is that all required technology is already there.
- Calming everyone down shall be a top priority. COVID-induced level of stress is our public enemy. Under stress our limbic system has the upper hand and impairs our capacity to think creatively and produce. Enjoy this period to disconnect for some time. Being always connected, means being always in a focused state and never in diffuse state. It is the latter when you are creative, actually.
After all, the future is not at all necessary dark. On the contrary, much-referenced study conducted by Stanford few years ago revealed that remote work can lead up to a 50 decrease of worker attrition and a considerable rise in their performance.
Turns out telecommuters took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and also took less time off. Not to mention that companies saved almost $2,000 per employee/year on rent, reducing the amount of office space.
Now what about the employee’s side? Good news is that we are very adaptable to pretty much anything. This is what we acquired through evolution. It only takes time and some personal effort in exchange for a tasty reward.
As shown in an array of earlier surveys, people that regularly worked from home responded to be happier, more productive and tend to stay with their companies longer.
An important message here is that being able to work remotely is a skill, everybody needs to learn now. Having such experience and being familiar with relevant IT tools will soon become desirable (if not necessary) quality at any job interview.
To conclude: just keep remembering this is one major test for us all. Communication, collaboration and creativity shall be our keywords for making remote work really work, for companies and for individuals working for them. This are the key values we share at TimeFlip.