We’ve all seen what is going on in the world today, either in person or on the news. The Novel Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the entire world and has necessitated the shutdown of whole cities and countries as part of the proactive measures put in place to halt its spread.
The First Problem
In the wake of the virus’s widespread infection, many governments issued orders forcing companies, businesses, and other private institutions to shut down their physical locations and send employees home to either shelter-in-place or observe a full self-isolation. Only essential services i.e. core manufacturing activities, health, essential consumer goods, and services, etc. have been allowed to function – and even then, with wide-reaching restrictions. The logic behind this is sound – profit-making pales in importance to the business of saving lives and preventing a full-blown disaster.
The Resulting Problems
This, however, has meant that many companies that rely on the physical presence of employees to work at offices, stores, warehouses, etc. have been hit badly. Employees in some countries have gone months without receiving a paycheck and companies are teetering closer to the red line than ever before – with a huge number of them officially declaring bankruptcy. In fact, estimates in the United States state that as many as 20% of the businesses that have had to shut down may never return to business, irrespective of when movement restrictions are lifted.
Out With the Old…. In with the Future
In the wake of COVID-19, companies, businesses, and other institutions have been forced to explore new ways to remain productive and serve their clients and customers. This has brought about a new wave of in the work culture – remote work. Globally, 54% of jobs have at least parts that can be performed remotely, 18% of worldwide employees work from home, and 16% of companies and businesses exclusively hire remotely. To boot, the number of worldwide remote employees has increased by 150% since 2005. This shows that even before the recent outbreak, the world was open to the idea of having employees put in their hours at home.
Why The Shift Has Taken Long to Arrive
The problem lies in tradition. We have been so accustomed to a humdrum office environment for so long, HR managers and even a few workers alike perceive it as the only environment in which to stay productive. This is perhaps why, to date, 44% of employees will not even consider hiring a remote employee in any capacity. But contrary to this perception, a new crop of professionals now want to work completely from home – with a large number even willing to give up perks such as paid vacations, increased pay, and pension packages just to avail of this benefit. These people say that working from home provides a freer environment devoid of distractions, where they can complete their tasks on time.
When the lockdown was issued, WeWork announced almost immediately that it would give almost all of its employees funds to set up their home offices. The price of shares in the conference calling app “Zoom” increased exponentially as more and more people went on the app to conduct their work meeting. In fact, even the social media platform for celebrities, “Onlyfans”, saw a rise in its stock due to virtual patronage by celebrities who wanted to entertain their fans at home.
How Remote Work is The Solution
In the opening paragraphs, a very glaring problem was identified; some companies have had the rug swept up from under them since the restrictions were imposed by the government. A few forward thinking organizations, however, saw the signs and quickly evolved their work processes to accommodate remote, flexible work.
Of course, remote work can not apply to certain work processes (such as fabrication, construction, and other hands-on fields), but, in the case of services and solutions consulting (and other similar businesses), workers can be just as (if not more) productive working from just about anywhere. Applying virtual solutions where possible will greatly reduce the strain on transportation resources, companies’ environmental footprints, and lastly, the propensity for diseases like COVID-19 to spread in a n unmitigated manner.
For the Future
One thing is for sure, things are going to have to change. As the entire course of human history can bear testament, a wide-reaching change like this is usually necessitated by an extreme crisis. The recent COVID-19 virus will catalyze a change in our work culture for better or for worse. In the decades and centuries to follow, humanity will be judged against how it handled this crisis but perhaps, more importantly, the lessons we learned and implemented from it.