Coronavirus and the Digital Workspace
COVID-19 has changed the landscape of work in an unprecedented way. With office-spaces closed around the world for health and safety reasons, Working from home has become the new normal for a much bigger chunk of the population than ever before. In America, 42% of the labor force
was working full-time from home as of late June, according to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. This transition hasn’t been without
attached costs: some 25% of executives and small-business owners reported investing in new digital tools to facilitate employees in remote work by March alone. A majority expects this tool usage to continue after the pandemic.
Improvements in technology and connectivity meant that the world was already witnessing an increasing number of people working from home even before the pandemic. In 2017, for example, 5.2% of the US labor force worked from home. Coronavirus, however, has greatly accelerated these trends.
As Jonathan Diegel from the Chicago Booth School of Business puts it: “This has taken maybe five or ten years of change and crunched it down into just a couple of short months.” Throughout the world, and particularly in more developed economies, many expect this change to continue. According to a paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, 35% of firms in the US believe that 40% of their current switch to remote working will be permanent.
Working from Home Is Here to Stay
What we are looking at then are not short-term reactions to the pandemic, but rather deep changes in the work arrangements poised to last permanently. The hybrid work environment has quickly become the new norm, and employers can capitalize by fully understanding the new benefits and challenges
this new paradigm offers. Over a half of managers believe that working from home has surpassed expectations. Many employees are also warming up to the idea: 71% of workers in France who had never worked from home before the pandemic now wished to do so at least once per week. 79% were even willing to give up their office for this. The reasons why range from increased flexibility, comfort, not needing to commute and an increased amount of time
they could spend with their families.
Challenges and Opportunities
Remote working does not come without its challenges, however. Communication issues topped the list for difficulties faced by workers and managers in navigating this new landscape. 17% of workers faced troubles in collaborating with other employees, and 32% were concerned that their managers
would not notice their contributions in the office. Managers were similarly concerned about retaining team cohesiveness, maintaining company culture and ensuring employee productivity. Employees were also worried about not being able to ‘unplug’ after working at home, with 22% voicing this concern.
Despite these challenges, the increased flexibility working from home offers is still attractive to most workers. Firms that are able to adapt and provide a healthy, functioning and productive digital workplace will be the best placed to benefit from remote working. Similarly, workers will also have to mold their practices in order to capitalize on working from home without compromising on their physical and mental well-being.