How Remote Working is Changing the Workforce
Employers and Employees share a very complex relationship. Historically antagonistic in nature, mutual trust and respect are newfound on the timeline of the world. With a tradition of excessive control and supervision, the concept of remote working was a repelling thought. Though not a new concept, it was never seen as a viable alternative to office-work. Philosophers, think-tanks and businesses have been toying with the idea, its practicability and scope of implementation for more than three decades now. However, the Coronavirus Pandemic and the lockdown that followed, forced businesses to adapt themselves to it. For over a year now, and within a short span of time, remote working has brought about considerable changes. Businesses that were sceptical about adopting them have come to realise that it does not really affect the overall performance.Therefore, we have seen structural changes in the workforce and its composition over the past year.
Several studies have been conducted to know about the pros and cons of remote working. Most common responses can be concluded into the argument that work from home is more desirable.Surveys suggest that most employees would want to continue working from home,or prefer a combination of office and home, even after the pandemic recedes.They report greater productivity from home, time saved in commute, better work-life balance, less absenteeism and avoiding unnecessary office-politics. From the point of view of employers, it is beneficial as less office-turnover would eventually result in lesser expenditure in maintaining office-spaces and greater productivity. This system simultaneously enables them a wider base of global talent for recruiting as workforce from across the continents is available for hiring.
However, it would be incorrect to conclude that remote working does not have any negative effects. Multiple distractions at home and multitasking could lead to reduction in the quality of work. Those working from home have also found it difficult to gain promotions as compared to their peers working from office, due to reduced interaction with their superiors and those in charge of performance review. The challenge is greater for the new-recruits who start their journey remotely as they are faced with challenges in peer recognition and difficulty in grasping company culture and workflow. The suitability of remote working also varies from country to country as internet penetration and access to technology and gadgets play a major role in determining how successful remote working can be. The factor of housing also comes into play as remote working would require professionals to set up an office space at home, an expensive affair in metropolitan cities. Developed nations like Belgium, Sweden and Canada have found it easier to shift to remote work as compared to developing and under-developed nations whose workforce faces acute infrastructural shortage. In such a scenario, companies operating in these regions can only expect a high productivity if they provide basic work from home essentials to their employees, a demand that has been on the rise through the pandemic.
However, a less visible but even greater unavoidable evil of remote working according to Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economist is- the ticking time bomb of inequality- as highly educated, resourceful and skilled workforce could easily function remotely while those whose work is un-skilled and demands an on-site presence have no recourse. Those working as managers, professionals and financial workers work from home as efficiently as from office while those in retail, transport, business etc are badly affected. If such a scenario is to remain, one can expect a widening gulf between the white-collar jobs and the rest, creating greater inequalities than there already exists.
If asked to choose between the two, there stands no correct choice. While remote working is futuristic and sustainable, it happens at the cost of providing equal opportunities to all. At the same time, a rigorous work from office is not only resource-consuming, but also not in congruence with technological advancements and individual requirements of the 21st century. A combination of the two seems like a better idea for the time being until we figure out a more inclusive way to shift to remote working.