Remote working has been the biggest trend over the past year. While the largest workplace disruptions used to be new technologies and changing supply chains, the pandemic has brought along an entirely different beast: remote work.
With 2022 just around the corner, the question has become: Will remote working die?
As companies look to bring their workers back to the office, it seems as though the death of remote working is inevitable. A recent study by Harvard has shown that when caught between the choice between returning to work or unemployment, it’s been shown that over 57% of the workforce will opt for the former rather than the latter.
But why? What’s so bad about remote work that companies are looking to bring their employees back to the office full-time?
Let’s take a look.
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What is Remote Work?
Remote work is a lifestyle that allows professionals to work outside of the traditional office. Because of the presence of terms such as “Hybrid Work”, it would be safe to say that remote work is location-independent – meaning that you can work in any way, from anywhere, at all times.
Thus, the only way to communicate with your officemates or management would be through virtual meetings and phone calls.
That’s the problem with remote work, humans just weren’t built to communicate solely through computer screens. There are nuances in the human language that are better communicated through non-verbal motions.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Let’s get into why the fully-remote version of remote working will die.
5 Reasons Why Remote Working Will Die
You can find plenty of pro-WFH articles out there. I’m sure that you can come up with some compelling reasons for yourself but that doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Here are some reasons why remote working might die.
Reason 1.) Social Interaction Just Isn’t The Same
One of the key benefits of working in an office is being in a conducive working environment. This includes having colleagues and professionals surround you, ready to answer any questions that you might have or help you out with a problem you’re facing.
Some of the best discussions and ideas come from hallway or cafeteria table discussions, as you meet new people and get to know other projects that they’re working on.
When you’re working from home though, you won’t have the same level of social interaction. Seeing everyone through a screen isn’t the same as directly communicating with them face-to-face. Let’s face it, you pay so much more attention to daily standups when you’re on-site rather than facing a computer screen.
Many people forget that work is also a social sphere and a physical office satisfies the basic human need for social contact. For that reason, I whole-heartedly believe that work-from-home will never completely replace the physical office.
Sure, there are software tools such as Slack that could help bridge the gap between remote teams and in-house staff, but even the most notification-addicted individual will miss out on news circulating around the company – be it important executive updates or the latest office gossip.
Reason 2.) Work-Life Balance Is Non-Existent
A results-oriented approach should be the goal of every organization. This provides the people with the flexibility to control the hours they work, given that they uphold or surpass the quality of standard which they already set for themselves.
That said, flexibility means that as a remote worker, there is the possibility that you could work less or more than the usual 8-hour shift.
This means that when you’re in a remote work setting, your work-life balance is basically non-existent. There will be days when all you think about is work and upcoming deadlines, especially if you don’t have anyone to take your mind off of it.
This is a management problem – not an employee problem. Many organizations that I’ve come across fail to understand the concept of “time boundaries”, they set meetings well into the night and expect people to still show up.
While this may be great for the first couple of weeks, it’s the shortest path to impending burnout. Work-life balance is absolutely essential to reducing stress, anxiety, and the possibility of depression. Ultimately, it’s the best way to prevent burnout and assure that you’re able to perform and create high-quality outputs at a sustainable pace.
Reason 3.) Management Chains Will Change
An article by New York Times mentions that while workers are now free of commuting costs, they’ve become more vulnerable to distractions and are subsequently more likely to lose productivity.
More importantly, however, it’s helped executives determine which positions are essential to their business and which positions aren’t.
Jeffrey Gundlack, CEO of DoubleLine Capital, has said this in his monthly webcast: “I kind of learned who was really doing the work and who was not really doing as much work as it looked like on paper that they might have been doing,” he said. With “some of the supervisory, middle-management people,” he added, “I’m starting to wonder if I really need them.”
While this shifting chain in management is necessary for the virtual revolution to be completed, one can’t ignore the fact that this shift in office dynamics, where individuals are given more autonomy to manage their tasks on a day-to-day basis, is a tough pill to swallow for mid-level managers.
Reason 4.) Companies Look To Bring Employees Back
You should know by now that companies are looking to bring employees back. At least 56% of companies, based on a Harvard Business Review report, are looking to bring their employees back into the office for at least one day a week.
Given that remote working demands a location-independent profession, even a one-office-day per week setup doesn’t fall under the premise of remote working. Remote working should allow you to create and produce for your company from anywhere in the world. If you’re required to be in the office for one day a week, then how can you say that you’re truly working remotely?
From the same report, only 26% of companies are looking to employ a remote work setting for their employees – leaving everyone else in a hybrid setup that may or may not last depending on the productivity levels that employees sustain.
Reason 5.) Personal Discipline Challenges
There are two things I’d like to address here: the TV and the Zoom Meeting. For some people, staying engaged when you’re on the clock is a huge problem. For others, the discipline of working from home comes naturally.
Unfortunately, you’ll most likely fall into the category of the former than the latter.
Matt Valentine from Goalcast believes that to build a habit, you must utilize a principle known as the path of least resistance.
When you’re in the middle of a meeting, and you have the choice of either listening in and taking down notes or tuning out and scrolling through your phone, do you understand why you choose the latter instead of the former? Mentally, it feels easier to tune out and relax than it does to focus and take notes.
You’re already at home and your phone is right next to you. No one can see or monitor your actions. In contrast, listening in requires you to grab a pen and notebook, block out all distractions, and focus solely on the meeting.
The choice here seems pretty simple: it’s vegetable time.
It’s the path of least resistance and it’s the path that most people will be looking to take.
To work around this, you’ll probably require careful behavioural monitoring and an intensive adjustment period before you’ll hit your stride conducive to a work from home setting.
Now, the question of whether this leads to more productive employees is more conclusive. In fact, it’s actually been found that remote work actually boosts productivity. A recent Stanford study found that working from home increased productivity among a group of 16,000 workers by 13% over the course of 9 months. On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are thus 47% more productive, as stated in a report from Apollotechnical.
However, this brings back the question of work-life balance. Working “one more day a week” in a 5-day workweek is inconducive for work-life balance – it leaves you one day a week for required errands, household chores, and family time. Taking regular breaks allow your brain to refocus and relax. If you’re working 6 days a week, are you really relaxing?
Will Hybrid Working Last?
I want it to be known that throughout this entire article, I’ve always thought of remote work as fully remote, meaning that you won’t be required to report to the office for even one day. Why? Because remote work should be location-independent. Otherwise, it’s not remote – you’re just working from home.
That said, if there are days that you’ll be allowed to work from home, then you’ll fall under the category of hybrid working.
Hybrid working is the shining star of the remote work movement. With almost 60% of companies allowing for remote work, hybrid working will not only last but will also continue to grow over the next decade. 53% of workers want a hybrid working model and the past few months have proven that hybrid working does not come with a loss of productivity and is, therefore, a possible more flexible solution to a generation quickly burning out.
What Can You Do About The Death Of Remote Work?
Here’s the thing: I genuinely believe that fully remote work will never be the norm for a company. It’s just too much to ask from large organizations to allow people to fully work from anywhere in the world.
So, here’s my solution: Start working for yourself!
Join the millions of people around the world and start freelancing today. Take the skills you’ve learned from your profession and go into business for yourself. Not only will you have more time for yourself but you’ll also be working on something that you’re truly passionate about – instead of a project that you’re only doing to get paid.
I remember reading this quote: “A day job is the equivalent of spending your life working on someone else’s dream.”
So why spend that time on someone else when you could be working towards your own goals and ambitions?
I know, it’s scary – and entrepreneurship does come with its own set of risks but I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely possible if you’re willing to put in the hard work and effort.
Regardless, it’s definitely an option if you want to truly experience freedom-ridden remote work.
Being able to work from anywhere in the world with flexible hours is a privilege that not many can afford but it’s also a privilege worth striving for – and freelance work is the first step you need to take to get your foot in the door of truly remote working.