Image Credit: remote work, credit Unsplash
Time for a Change of Scenery on the Job?
Nothing has been quite so transformative during the last two years as the way we work. The future of work and our mobility as knowledge workers has been augmented by digital transformation. Ready to have the best of both worlds? Well now you can.
This article will explore many of those familiar clichés of the benefits of remote work for the knowledge worker. Many forget it's not just for the individual programmer, software engineer or back-end knowledge worker, but also is better for organizations, firms, and their industrial psychology.
The pandemic brought us many challenges including lockdowns, physical separation, uncertainty, loneliness, a shift in how we spend our time and relate, even with family and, for some of the lucky few of us, remote work. So what are the benefits of remote work? Do the benefits outweigh the potential mental health and salary costs? While this is an immensely personal weighing, society continues to churn from the office in the 'great resignation'.
Remote work certainly seems tethered with the future of work for various knowledge workers including those in programming, datascience, machine learning and so forth.
Heading into the second half of 2021 and into 2022, how will remote work feel as the new normal and what benefits will we no longer be able to live without. Do you know someone in the office of in management who is skeptical of the benefits for the firm or for workers? Share with them this article.
I have been enjoying work from home. It has allowed me more time with the family. No commute in the morning, no commute in the evening. Still put the hours in, but my breaks consist of family time. When I was in the office, I was lucky to get an hour with the family on a weekday. Enjoy the new house. Have fun exploring CO, so much to do there. We miss it. Hoping we stay remote, but as of now, that is planned to mostly end in September for me. - Richard Litsky.
More time with family is the single most reported benefit of more hybrid work or remote work arrangements. This can lead to healthier family units, marked improvements in spousal relationships and more social support when facing the ups and downs of life.
The pandemic really has shown that remote working is a viable option in so many ways including having the ability to buy a place of your own, still have an awesome career and maintain a healthy work life balance. - Ben Forrest.
For knowledge workers and those typically in data science, programming, software engineering, artificial intelligence and technology, remote work has given people the flexibility to work from anywhere in the country, presenting new opportunities they might not otherwise have had.
This has led to many knowledge workers buying a home during the pandemic, moving and finding new ways to live where they want, instead of working where they have to work in a designated office. Some companies have even abandoned physical offices altogether.
In studies that say WFM is more productive, commute time is often mentioned as one of the key variables. However, for mental health, commute stress can also be significant for many workers who go to the office. Realistically however, for many remote workers less commute stress may be off-set by technological loneliness, especially among young workers who are single.
Improved mental health is often cited as a reason for a preference for remote work. However not everyone enjoys or tolerates zoom meetings, not in the same way as in-person meetings.
Many remote workers choose to leave large cities and live in more comfortable, scenic and pleasant surroundings.
It seems remote working has more perks than just avoiding a bad commute. On a recent backpacking trip in Oregon and California, I met a woman in a little town called Etna. She used to work in Buffalo, NY, but she moved to California to be near family and continues to support a large IT services company remotely. There's no way she could have a job like that in a rural town without working from her home.... - Bonnie Nicholls.
With hybrid work or remote work employees report spending less on commuting and on more professional business attire than they would if they were going to the office every single day of the week. Also fewer coffees and other daily expenses mean savings that can add up and be spent on family, entertainment or office supplies at home instead. However this can also be offset by some employers actually reducing salary expenses if employees choose to go full on remote work. This is common if you move from Silicon Valley to somewhere else where the cost of living is cheaper.
While more time with loved ones can take many forms, for some Millennials or GenZ who do not have a family yet this means more time with pets which can boost mental health and productivity. Working remotely means you can recharge with micro breaks at home in a way you wouldn't necessarily do with ear phones on in an open-space office (blast from the past!).
While it's very easy to spot the benefits for the individual employee, what might be the benefits for a company? Some of these include:
Businesses also function differently when they use remote workers with many reporting better team bonds and less hierarchy.
However location independence is actually having a broader range of potential jobs that aren't tied to a single geography. This relates to a greater democratization of opportunity and geographically decentralized workforce.
GenZ really prefer the freelancer life and some will not hold down 9 to 5 jobs like we used to, while some of them might even country hop often in a digitally nomadic lifestyle. Of course all of this presumes that you have skills that are translatable to remote work and preferably that you are a knowledge worker that software engineering or data science afford.
There's some preliminary data that suggests remote teams are more inclusive, in that they embrace minorities better and promote more equality in the "workplace".
Due to location independence, roles can be filled with more expanded criteria. For instance by hiring people from different socioeconomic, geographic, and cultural backgrounds and with different perspectives better teams and products end up being created.
This is a benefit of remote work that could truly impact society in a major way, but more studies are required to back up the initial data.
Remote work offers workers more freedom that they appreciate so firms that adopt hybrid or remote work conditions may see significantly higher employee retention and higher morale.
Employees report having more freedom to customize their life-work balance the way they want, including making their own schedules. For knowledge work in software development, data science, AI and software engineering this may be an essential requirement, given the diversity among their employees.
This freedom extends to introverts who might be sensitized to the noise and constant interruptions of a physical office. More than anything this perceived freedom implies the company trusts the employee to do their best, even with limited supervision. This kind of trust can mean a pay it forwards reciprocity comes into effect where the remote worker becomes a more positive influence on his team and its productivity.
Before the pandemic remote work was something for freelancers and the self-employed. However with remote work becoming the mainstream for knowledge workers, the technology took a sudden leap that empowers better communication, collaboration and support for employees.
The Zoom and Microsoft Teams era among many other tools suggests that these collaboration software services also make for a better support system. The collaboration at a distance approach can mean meetings are shorter, check-ins are more personal and flexibility is higher for all the surprises that life can bring.
That the tech is more collaborative makes remote work easier than it did in the past. Every process has been streamlined, and the way teams function has also been improved with new kinds of digital workforce data. As the hybrid workforce becomes the new normal, this collaborative technology is set to become exponentially better.
Remote work and WFM also allows your side-gigs to prosper or working for several clients at once if you are a freelancer. Remote work enables you to multitask in different ways and as a knowledge worker that could mean your DIY investing, your side-gig, your personal projects and your actual work role.
Remote work gives you the ability to be more productive because you can be yourself in your own customized office space. This ultimately means likely making more money due to the ability to include side projects in your daily activities.
Remote work in this way allows you to fulfill your human potential in a manner that you might not get when stuffed in an office all day long.
Microsoft is creating LinkedIn news promoting remote work and helping knowledge workers navigate it, here and here. With Microsoft Teams and their suite of software tools, it's almost like a product placement. In the 'AI for good" work making friends at work could also, frankly, be easier. It will no longer be about who you are physically most close to in a physical office setting.
Companies understand in a remote work environment the importance of Slack and making space for social chat. A bonded team is a team that understands itself better and can be more productive. As a result firms are finding out what works to create a friendlier culture for a digital workforce.
During the pandemic when mental health issues were rising, workers created or organized weekly virtual hangouts, which they took offline as people got vaccinated. Some met one-on-one or attended company-wide off-site events like baseball games. As we adapted to lockdowns, we had to find ways to socialize in a way that helped us cope with the various adjustments.
Starting a remote job can be hard, but many people have found new ways to forge work friendships during the pandemic. There’s no longer a proverbial water cooler to generate casual encounters, and some younger workers have never had a physical office at all. But they’ve overcome the awkwardness of the digital chat box to initiate meaningful, if often distanced, friendships. - Krithika Varagur.
For those that don't like office politics or water-cooler chit chat, remote work actually feels like a blessing. For extraverts, digital software tools make it easier to communicate.
While remote workers initially tend to blur the lines between home life and work, as they get used to the new routine they may work less peer influenced overtime. This actually promotes emotional well-being. With some studies suggesting a 4-day work week is most productive, forced overtime is not something knowledge workers should be doing much of.
While some firms, startups and technology companies might expect a significant amount of overtime as part of the job, remote workers have more flexibility with regards to this.
Less forced overtime means improved work-life balance. Many remote workers actually do too much overtime which reduces their job satisfaction. Keeping to a fixed routine helps.
Remote work can help those who are underemployed or retired bycv 2350/*, working in an easier environment. Some retired knowledge workers get bored and want to continue to actively contribute to society and remote work can afford them that opportunity.
Others who are disabled, those who are caregivers, those who are suffering an illness and others in difficult mental health periods have more flexibility in working remotely. Remote work overall improves accessibility to jobs and professional opportunities.
Remote work means less commuting and as such may represent a smaller carbon footprint for your family and you as an individual. Digital transformation technologies might allow major companies to attain carbon neutrality faster.
So by choosing a lifestyle of remote work, you aren't just saving time and perhaps money, but having a positive environmental impact in your small way. For the U.S. a whopping 7.8 billion vehicle miles aren’t traveled each year for those who work at least part time from home, 3 million tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) are avoided, and oil savings reach $980 million.
So the behavior modification of remote work can have small sustainable environmental impacts. It can also contribute to less traffic congestion, less noise pollution and thus less air pollution in your local region, if remote work becomes a more collective choice in how we approach the future of work as a society.
For introverts who prefer to work in total silence and in peace and tranquility, working from home has the obvious benefit of a more customized and quiet work space. Busy offices, interruptions, noise, wasteful meetings and crowded conditions create stress that reduces work focus and general feelings of well-being.
From a perspective of too much stimulation, remote work can create a more ideal balance between the physical environment and the preferences of the employee to work in an atmosphere that's more conducive for them to give it their best, think creatively and come up with novel solutions to work problems.
For SMBs and firms in general, remote work allows for greater access to a talented pool of workers, no matter where they live in the country of operations or the entire world at large. For particular positions employers want to find the right skills but also the right cultural fit for their organization.
As such, remote work allows HR to improve the talent level of their employees thus benefiting the company and the industry as a whole. For organizations, having an extended reach of talent can make the difference in becoming profitable compared to just scraping by.
It's hard to argue against being more productive. An overwhelming majority of studies demonstrate how remote work allows an organization and the individual to be more productive. As companies adopt remote work for knowledge workers, especially their white collar talent and software engineers, key metrics of productivity and efficiency go up and constructs related to innovation go up.
One of the biggest lessons of the pandemic has been how remote work equals more productivity which might hypothetically eventually lead developed countries to adopt a 4-day work week.
With the economic recovery after the pandemic, many employees want to change jobs. Those organizations that are the most pro remote work will retain their best talent. The data might in the end show how remote work means less job hopping for young talent, a key demographic competitive companies need to retain to excel in the future.
Remote work in the future might be one of the necessary requirements to create a successful company culture. With remote work and a more automated HR with AI, companies can become more agile and cost efficient in terms of recruitment and retention of their talent.
Remote work will also allow new data to be used by AI systems that assist in recruiting and on-boarding of employees. This data will ultimately improve the success rate of HR and hiring (talent acquisition) for a company. Remote work will thus likely accelerate how some aspects of HR become automated with chatbots and advanced AI systems.
As remote work becomes normalized the software systems around collaboration and communication improve and can be tweaked to suit an organization's needs. This improved communion leads to increased teamwork, loyalty, job satisfaction and productivity. That might be why remote work in the end leads to more productivity in teams and individual performance.
Technology in this way can reduce office politics while augmenting the key metrics of communication with more data on the kinds of communication that matter the most. Remote work is thus an example of how digital transformation software and more knowledge workers going remote might improve a company's long term prospects.
The advent of remote work might lead to a cascade of changes for knowledge workers in a future work revolution never seen before. The arrival of the corporate metaverse might mean significant changes in how we work and navigate work-life balance as a generational shift.
Knowledge workers are in 2021 insisting on having the ability to work hybrid WFM or in some cases take jobs across the country as remote workers. Digital transformation associated with remote work will also create new data science and programming jobs all around the world and change the future of digital collaboration itself.
A large majority of knowledge workers do not want to go back to the office much more than one or two times a week, if at all. Therefore it’s somewhat likely that the benefits of remote work make it a sustainable trends, both for the individual worker and for businesses.
What do you think? What has been your experience so far with remote work in a world in partial or recurrent lockdowns? Is it something you want implemented in the future for your next job or the future of work itself? Will you insist on remote work as a condition for applying for a position in your field?
Share a comment below.