Working Remotely & the COVID-19 virus

As the COVID-19 virus spreads major companies have asked their employees to work remotely as a preventative measure to the spreading virus.  

What will this mean for the future of working from an office versus working from home?

Although this virus is spreading rapidly and creating a tsunami in terms of media attention (what 2020 election?), it is also giving society an opportunity to reconsider how work is organised and how we can evolve with 21st century technology.

Research shows that companies that have more flexible work policies and give workers more autonomy over where, when and how they work, perform just as well if not better than companies that have more stringent attendance policies. Flexibility helps with stress and energy levels and employee satisfaction. It also has been shown that working from home can allow employees to be more productive as there are fewer interruptions so they are better able to concentrate, innovate, and organise their tasks for the day.  Employees save time commuting to be spent on their passions or on work. 

Although some companies do offer these flexible working policies such as telecommuting, schedules and hours most are based on individual agreements or asking the employer’s permission, making these the exception not the rule. This has led to a scenario where most employees are expected to be in the office daily, while at the same time are presumed to be accessible around the clock.

It’s sadly very common that employees seeking to work at different times and locations have experienced negative consequences on their career. Detrimental situations such as poor performance reviews, less promotion opportunity, and lower salary growth often plague those who seek to step slightly outside the outdated box. Because women and especially mothers are more likely to request a more flexible working arrangement, sexism and gender equality in the workplace is also called into question. Because of these risks, employees often refrain from asking for this ‘special treatment’ from their employer.

And boom! All of sudden we have the coronavirus, and all of a sudden companies allow, ney encourage their workforce to work from home. With the heightened contagiousness and media promoted fear, it’s now the only way to ensure that work will get during these unprecedented times. 

For many industries such as hospitality, working remotely is not an option. However, for those that can offer remote work options, the coronavirus may provide the push that companies need to move past outdated policies and realise that working differently can provide benefit to their workforce and business as a whole.