How remote working is changing the workplace

How remote working is changing the workplace
Source: Pexels, Tima Miroshnichenko

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, remote working has globally challenged traditional business norms as well as societal expectations for everyday living. The inevitable increase in remote working has not only changed the way workers have been physically affected, but also the way people are mentally affected.

The pandemic has dramatically impacted more than just the rush hours and daily nine-to-five office spaces, and studies show drastic results in the way remote working is continually changing the workplace as we know it. It’s been more than a year now since the pandemic kicked off, and still the uncertainty of a regular working lifestyle is in the air. As the repetitive routines and isolation associated with remote working become more normal by the day, we’re starting to see specifically how this trend is affecting workers around the world.

The pros of remote working

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So many cultural adjustments are happening within the workplace, and the team at Vyond paired up with True Global Intelligence to survey 1,000 full-time employees on the impact COVID-19 has on the workplace and how it may be creating new issues for workers across the nation. Their recent study shows that fewer employees consider having a romantic relationship in the office inappropriate. Fewer employees consider discussing politics to be inappropriate in the workplace than in the past – in fact, that number has dropped by 23% in 12 months. As the virus creates a massive transition from work to home, Vyond found that non-remote workers have a healthier work-life balance compared to remote workers, reporting a 12% increase in work-life balance for those non-remote.

Also adapting effortlessly to technological advancements are the younger generations; studies show that 38% of Generation Z, 47% of Millennials and 38% of Generation X have improved their work-life balance this past year. As a result of generational technology gaps, the divide between the younger and older folks (aka Boomers) is prevalent. For someone who’s used to a workplace without cellphones, Zoom calls or using the internet for everything, the difficulties of adapting have been an issue across the board.

Not everyone is onboard with these changes to the workplace. Another survey that examined Americans’ thoughts about remote work by WalletHub found that statistics drawn from a “Coronavirus and Working from Home Survey” show almost 60% of Americans think COVID-19 has changed the way we work for the better.

If we begin to pinpoint the overall environmental effects, Melissa Kreger at GlobalEdge goes into detail about how the Earth is positively benefiting as a whole during this economic crisis. She states that “air pollution levels have dropped by roughly 25% over the last month,” while the “70% reduction in domestic flights has heavily contributed to falling carbon dioxide usage.” The short term effects caused by this economic disruption are a worldwide occurrence, but as the pandemic begins to slowly decline due to vaccinations being rolled out, we’ll soon see gas emissions increase as travel becomes prevalent once again.

The cons of working from home

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Despite some workers benefiting from remote working, researchers have discovered that in one year, the cons of working from home seem to outweigh the pros. Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom discusses the greater challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis and dissects the societal impacts of what he refers to as the new “working-from-home-economy.”

Researchers like Bloom have predicted the growth of large city centers at a temporary standstill due to commuters staying at home and offices/businesses being shut down: “If we consider the contribution to the US gross domestic product based on their earnings, this enlarged group of work-from-home employees now accounts for more than two-third of US economy activity,” Bloom explains. Because of the negative impact for both urban commercial and residential space are falling by demand, the overall decline will eventually lead to the growth of city centers at a temporary hold; leaving the suburbs to become more impacted.

Another key point that Bloom highlights is how the shift could lead to worsening inequality, as higher educated and higher earning workers are more likely to have success in remote work. Because not everyone can work from home (retail, health care, business services, transport, etc.), the benefits of remote working lean more toward white-collar workers. Study from Bloom says that “only 51% of the survey respondents – mostly managers, professionals and financial workers who can carry out their jobs on computers – reported being able to work from home at an efficiency rate of 80% or more.”  The remaining (blue collar) workers are not able to work remotely because they either lack the facilities or haven’t acquired sufficient internet capacity to work effectively from home. Taken together – this divide between workers – Bloom ends on how this is “generating a time bomb for inequality.”

Depending on your circumstances, the new cultural norm of remote working may or may not be a bad thing. For those unwilling to adapt to new tech, it will be a lot more challenging to cope with. To others that are effortlessly motivated to discover new ways of continuing to work and adapt to the changes of the pandemic, the process may be a welcome challenge. Some organizations and businesses will eventually have employees return to work, while others are looking to the future at a new remote workplace standard. Until then, remote working is a debatable topic, to say the least.

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