Work policies are one of the many aspects of our lives that the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped. Now, there’s a new normal. Remote and hybrid work continue to be realities for many of us, with many more asking if remote working is here to stay. And, if so, how will it impact the future of work?
These are big and broad questions that require an analysis of how COVID-19 opened the door for remote work processes, how remote work is changing work, and what the future of work may look like given the deluge of circumstances that have defined recent times.
In this article, we’ll explore the situation in an attempt to define the impact of remote work on the future of work itself.
How COVID Opened the Door to Remote Work
Before the pandemic, remote work was around. In fact, millions of people working in all kinds of tech and telecommunications jobs, freelance positions, and a variety of other economic sectors made due out of home offices or laptops at dining tables. Still, though, it wasn’t every day you met someone who worked from home.
Then, government shutdowns, quarantine measures, and self-imposed isolation all played their roles in changing the nature and location of work when the pandemic struck. It may have even been fortuitous that COVID-19 hit when it did. After all, we had already begun the process of converting to the fifth generation of wireless connectivity for mobile networks, with which we connect all kinds of wireless Internet of Things (IoT) and smart devices that make workflow possible virtually.
All of a sudden, businesses could reach out globally for the kind of talent and supply chains they needed to effectively do business even in the middle of a pandemic. All kinds of jobs enabled remote working practices and flexible accommodations.
Jobs across a variety of industries have adapted to give the employees the flexibility they greatly desire in this new environment. Even nursing jobs can be completed from home due to the availability of healthcare informatics, telehealth systems, and cloud data services that allow for care accessibility away from a facility.
After all, millions of workers around the world found themselves struggling to juggle childcare and other family obligations amid the pandemic concerns. Without this flexibility, many more businesses would have had to shut down completely.
COVID opened the door. It led employers to offer unprecedented flexibility to the way that workers live their lives and log in to their workplaces. It was an experiment born out of necessity but the results have mostly proven beneficial. With findings that demonstrate an increase in productivity and employee satisfaction from working from home, the adopted policies of the pandemic might just be here to stay.
Without the emergence of COVID-19, it’s unlikely that such a rapid shift could have occurred. The result is a new normal of workplace flexibility in which remote work is a standard. But how will this change work overall?
How Remote Work is Changing Work
This great experiment on which we’ve embarked is very likely to solidify itself into the future of work practices. This means an overall reassessment of workforces, pay scales, time management systems, professional hierarchies, and more. For employers and workers alike, the wide-scale changes of a newly remote workplace bring both benefits and drawbacks.
We’ve already seen remote work impact the way work is conducted as well as the priorities set by organizations. For employers and workers, remote work is changing the nature of work in the present. By assessing these impacts, we can begin to see an outline of what work will look like in the future.
Employers and managers fill some of the roles that can most effectively be done remotely. As both employees themselves and as the supervisors for their respective organizations, employers will both work from home and manage a workforce that is engaged remotely. In doing so, a host of new considerations and impacts have changed the nature of the job.
These are some of the most prominent:
- The nature of team communication. Without being near your team during working hours, managing communication has changed. Now, remote workers are accustomed to using tools like Zoom, Slack, or Microsoft Teams to coordinate and check in with each other regarding projects, questions, and concerns. Supplementing your virtual team management skills with tech is an aspect of remote work that will continue to define the future of work.
- Workplace needs. Without bodies in the office, your office space needs and subsequent budgeting have changed. From commercial rent to utilities to office supplies, nothing is quite the same with a remote or hybrid workforce. Additionally, a comprehensive cybersecurity system is necessary to prevent your workers from putting your business at risk. In the future, cybersecurity will continue to be a vital consideration for any organization.
- Workflow reassessments. Finally, the coordination of projects, juggling of workflows, and assigning of tasks are all different when managing remote workers and all their various demographic needs. For example, you still have to deal with the dynamics between Millennials and Baby Boomers, but digital platforms require extra attention to how your revised workflow affects things like retirement planning or mentorship opportunities. Employers have had to reassess their workflows to meet the needs of every worker in a hybrid situation. In the future, you should expect more of the same.
For workers, much of the same is true. Communication and workflow changes have impacted how we communicate with each other and express our needs. However, we all face the immediate impacts of remote work on both our personal and professional lives as we accommodate these changes.
For employees, these are some of the impacts that have and will continue to reshape the nature of work:
- Productivity. Ultimately, your productivity in the shift to remote work comes down to your unique situation. Many have had to juggle childcare and other family obligations with their work lives. Overall, however, studies have shown that productivity has not been impacted by remote work and in many cases has improved. Working from home can mean money and time saved while not having to commute.
- Flexibility. Additionally, the nature of remote work means you have more flexibility in the ways you conduct your personal and professional tasks. As a result, you can more conveniently handle chores on a break or pick your kid up from school, or even find a new opportunity in a completely different country. Remote work has opened up the world to all new possibilities for workers.
- Work-life balance. Finally, the impact of remote work on workers has led to a shake-up to their established work-life balances. The situation is different for every worker, but with the previously acknowledged study showing that some workers are working as many as three hours longer per day, the shift to remote work requires a reassessment of work-life balance. In the future, lines and worker protections will likely be drawn to support a more functional balance.
What the Future of Work Could Look Like
Facing all these impacts that remote work has had on the present, we can begin to extrapolate into the future and estimate what work may look like. While it’s impossible to say for sure just how widespread remote work will remain going forward, the benefits and convenience of remote and hybrid working practices in many cases have established its popularity. All told, remote work doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.
That said, here are some of the ways that remote work could change what work looks like in the future:
- Common flexible, hybrid work offerings across industries.
- New leadership positions around remote work supervision.
- Changes in payment systems and time management to revolve around project completion over hours.
- Worker protections around the right to disconnect and establish a better balance of working hours.
- Global standards for cybersecurity and data storage.
As the world moves into new territory prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, business leaders should look to the current impacts of remote work and establish best practices for securing their workflow. Since the future will be determined by the changes brought about by remote working practices, planning for these inevitabilities now will make for greater success.
Support your workforce with strong communication standards and make sure their work-life balance needs are met. In the future, workers will expect an accommodating and flexible working environment. Implementing one now can support a venture through the changes to come.