by Tala Ramadan -Source: Annahar
The office of Fuze, a Boston-based company, sits empty on March 10, 2020 after its 150 on-site employees were told to work from home due to concerns about the coronavirus. (Getty Images)
BEIRUT: As the pandemic imposed the largest global mass exercise in remote working ever seen as social distancing becomes part of our collective vocabulary, working from home is no longer a luxury for the modern business.
Businesses across the globe are quickly adopting flexible remote work policies for their employees.
The data on distance
While the new normal takes a foothold with a new reality that requires careful analysis of capacity and prioritization of workloads, new studies have been popping up to show the benefits and concerns of social distancing and remote working.
These studies display the complete range of the shift in work culture, from fears and vulnerabilities to a rise in virtual meetings that might be the future of work.
A study conducted by a team of economists in Norway estimated that approximately 36% of jobs could be realistically performed from home. The Norwegian economists asked a large sample of online respondents how likely it was that various occupations could be performed primarily from a private home.
The Brookings Institution’s Katherine Guyot and Isabel V. Sawhill shared their take on remote work and COVID-19, calling the pandemic “among other things, a massive experiment in telecommuting.”
A recent PWC study showed that about half of businesses expect a dip in productivity during the pandemic due to a lack of remote work capabilities.
Pros And Cons
In a study conducted in 2016 to evaluate if working from home works, a team of economists looked at Ctrip, a 16,000-employee Chinese travel agency that had randomly assigned a small group of its call-center staff to work from home. The experiment seemed like a win-win for workers and owners where employees worked more, quit less, and said they were happier with their job.
Meanwhile, the company saved more than $1,000 per employee on reduced office space. But when Ctrip rolled out this policy to the entire company, it caused a mess, yet, one complaint swamped everything else: loneliness.
The abundance of new technologies that are bringing workforces closer together, coupled with a shift in work culture over the last few years, means that the future will be filled with big advancements in the remote workforce.
According to Janet Pogue McLaurin, an architect, and principal at the design firm Gensler, which has been tracking changes in the workplace in annual surveys since 2008, many companies eliminated private offices in favor of open plans over the past decade, but the amount of space per office worker declined 25 percent.
The typical workstation of a decade ago; the cubicle was 8 by 8 feet. By 2015, the workstation was down to 6 by 8 feet, and in recent years, the contraction has continued.
“I do think this is going to reshape the workplace,” Janet Pogue-McLaurin, principal and workplace leader at design and architecture firm Gensler, told a technology news website, “Social distance thinking may be part of our DNA moving forward.”
The pandemic crisis will force swift and permanent changes in both commercial real estate and work culture itself. The office as we know it will never be the same.
International Facility Management Association (IFMA) is currently working in tandem with other specialized groups for cleaning and ventilation systems, among other things, to create guidelines and protocols for building operators around the world.
Skepticism about a post-pandemic “work-from-home” culture
Most discussions on enabling a work-from-home environment have been centered around how to provide the infrastructure necessary to allow employees a sufficient level of remote access.
Will remote working due to COVD19 actually result in an increase in productivity, and will working from home post-pandemic become the new normal? The enforced work-from-home experiment might not signal the death of the office, or will it just highlight the many benefits of remote working and lead to true flexibility for the greater good of business and individuals alike.
Only time will tell.