Will the COVID-19 outbreak permanently change the way we work?

It’s been roughly 6 months that we’ve been living this “new normal” of ours. Many of us were very suddenly forced to learn new ways of running our day-to-day lives with remote work becoming the rule rather than the exception. 

People were dumped home in a very short period of time and expected to continue working like business was usual. During pre-pandemic times many workers still operated under a fixed routine of going to the office to work with the occasional remote day thrown in the mix due to a dentist appointment or the likes. Of course some of us were more used to work from here and there, sharing our time between home, office, coworking spaces and cafes. But it’s now became apparent that remote work is possible on most fields, where face to face interaction isn’t a requisite. Obviously this doesn’t apply to fields where physical customer service for example is included and our essential workers, whose work is highly appreciated. 

A meme of unknown origin circulating the internet during the covid-19 pandemic.

A meme circulating the internet, origin unknown.

People have had varied reactions to remote work, it suits some better than others. We believe the world has taken a leap with when it comes to digitalizing work, but the growth curve is likely to slow down once the pandemic is (hopefully in the foreseeable future) halted. I’m sure many of you can think of reasons to continue along this path such as feeling trusted by your employer, having more free time not having to commute, making it easier to combine work and family life with a more flexible schedule, being more environmentally sustainable not having to travel etc. But what could stand in the way of the increase of remote work?

1. Habit

We as people, are creatures of habit. It’s not easy to learn new ways of working and the mindset required to look at your home as your office every day of the week is something that will take some getting used to. It’ll be easy for people to go back to their offices and continue the same routines they had before the pandemic.

2. Working environment

Some employers might find it difficult to transform their facilities economically sustainable in such a short period of time. Many large companies have massive office spaces with long-term lease agreements and it’s not in their best interest to have those spaces sitting empty. There’s also the matter of ergonomics when working from home. Are businesses willing to invest time and money to furbish and facilitate their workers’ home offices, when they have perfectly good work space available at their headquarters?

3. Social relations

The number one complaint people have been voicing on social media during the pandemic seems to be their lack of social relations. Our colleagues are an internal part of our working routine and enjoying ourselves at work. Of course the pandemic setting is an abnormality on its own, under normal conditions we wouldn’t have to isolate ourselves and practice social distancing. But we would need to learn how to communicate more effectively and profoundly through digital platforms, to stay connected to our colleagues when working remotely.

4. Management needs 

Remote work and digitalization bring out new needs in terms of management. If you’ve been used to having your team on site, supervising them and giving guidance hand to hand it might prove difficult to manage employees from afar. It was clear in the spring even having meetings virtually wasn’t a walk in the park for everyone. There’s a tremendous need to make sure our digital platforms work for their intended purpose, providing additional value instead of decreasing efficiency and causing stress. 

What do you think might hinder the march of remote work? And what could and should we do about it?

Photo credit for article picture: @evamarie_eriksson