The New Workplace: Remote Work Taking Off (Part 2)

The New Workplace: Remote Work Taking Off (Part 2)

10/12/20 Laura Gibbons

By Mike Jacquart

The American workplace is in the midst of unprecedented change that may put a permanent stamp on how companies run their businesses for many years to come. Many of these changes, such as increasing digital telehealth; and making greater use of remote work, which leads to greater efficiency; are largely for the better. But all is not rosy, as explained in the conclusion of this series.

Workforce Trends
The pandemic has been driving workforce trends that were occurring even before anyone ever heard of COVID-19. Many brick-and-mortar restaurants and retail stores, for instance, have been closing, while those with drive-thru and curbside pickup services are often thriving.

Scores of online firms, such as Amazon and many others are exploding in a more stay-at-home world. It’s anticipated these changes will remain permanent after the pandemic is over.

That’s not all. The pandemic has also been fueling the increasing switch to a gig economy. Bunny Studio, a leader in high-quality freelance creation services, recently revealed:

  • 97% of respondents see freelancing (some refer to it as contracting) as a long-term choice (lasting more than a year);
  • 57% of respondents work in the freelance gig economy as their primary source of income; and
  • 61% of respondents have been freelancing for over five years.

Whether these trends are good or bad depends on the individual’s work situation. If eliminating a costly commute and/or other flexibility is key, they’re likely good. For those who prefer face-to-face contact with customers or good fringe benefits, the gig economy may not be a preferred means of employment. The new workplace brings additional question marks:

Drawbacks to Remote Work
For various reasons, not everyone wants to work remotely. According to a leading study on the subject, a slim majority (53%) of Americans do not want to work remotely even part-time after the pandemic ends. Nearly half (42%) feel they do not have the tools they need to successfully work remotely. Indeed, not everyone is adept on a computer, while others may miss camaraderie with their workmates.

Working from home may be easier for a single household employee than a recent graduate sharing an apartment with roommates or a couple raising young children at home.

“Some people are dying to get back to the office because their living arrangement is a lousy place to get something done,” states Joe Connell, a principal at Perkins and Will’s.

A recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey notes that 65% of employers admit that keeping employees connected can be challenging in a remote environment. That’s clearly another potential drawback that employers need to be aware of. It’s what led me to branch out on my own three years ago, although admittedly we didn’t have Zoom at the time. That would have helped.

Work/life Balance
As alluded to above, remote work involves a delicate work/life balance that’s easier to attain for some than for others. A divorced dad with kids at school is probably glad to skip the morning commute and zero in on work much of the day – perhaps stopping to walk the dog or throw in a load of wash. For a young mom, the idea of getting much “work” done outside the home while attending to her kids is a pipedream.

“Once you’re in the office, that’s the easy part because we can work out the distancing and protocols,” Connell adds. “So much of this is becoming dependent on what our commute looks like, how much flexibility or agility we have in our family or household.”

The pandemic is clearly driving trends that were occurring before anyone ever heard of the coronavirus. Flexibility, innovation, and collaboration are seen as keys to success. Companies that are willing to knock their heads together and find ways to adapt to an everchanging economy are more likely to succeed than those who “go it alone,” states workplace futurist Ravin Jesuthasan.

Mike Jacquart is the editor and publisher of “Employee Assistance Report” and he edits the “Journal of Employee Assistance” for EAPA. He has been writing about employee assistance and workplace topics and trends since 2004.

Source: Lifestyle Tips, Insert Vol. 15, No. 10 in the Employee Assistance Report October 2020

Comments are closed.

Newsletter Sign-up