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Future of workplace

Remote Work: Re-imagining the Workplace of Tomorrow

The New Normal

Remote working is the talk of the town since work from home became a new normal.. and rightly so! The COVID-19 lockdown has offered businesses of all scales an opportunity to experiment working remotely from a relatively long-term perspective.

While we have seen rise in people working remotely for years, the current situation has accelerated this trend. It has given companies a chance to envision what the future of the workplace might look like.

We at WorkFromHub have been curious to understand this situation better, and decided to dig in a little deeper. In this post, we’ve tried to capture some of our initial insights and findings on this current subject. Thank you to everyone who took out a busy minute of your day to complete the survey we sent out!

According to a Forbes article, global organizations like Twitter and Square are offering work from home forever options to employees. Others, like Facebook, have announced work from home for the foreseeable future, but not indefinitely. In India, IT leaders like TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL, and Microsoft believe most of their employees will continue to WFH. So, even after the pandemic is over because employees are now adjusted to the shift in the Work-From-Home model. They also see productivity has gone-up since this move. According to NASSCOM, India’s IT workforce accounts for 4.36 million employees and over 95% of them have moved to the WFH model.

Does Work-From-Home Work?

According to our own research at WorkFromHub, conducted in early June 2020, we found that 72% of the respondents preferred a flexible work option and 13% preferred to work from home. The survey respondents included 61 working professionals (employees, managers, and HR) with 90% of them in the 20-40 age range. 

If productivity is a concern, recent studies show that when your teams work from home, they might actually be more productive than they are in the office. More than 90% of employees and managers on the WorkFromHub survey expressed that they were able to meet deadlines while working remotely. 

Statistics

C Vijayakumar, CEO of HCL Technologies says that the company has not faced any major outages due to work from a home delivery model and productivity has, in fact, increased by 16-17%. Tech Mahindra has also stated that the productivity, creativity as well as delivery is at “all-time-high”. And it plans to move to 25% work from home permanently.

Interestingly, one 2015 Stanford study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics suggests that working from home can improve performance by 13% in the first nine months away from the office. Researchers in this study say they attributed the increased productivity to fewer breaks and sick days as well as a quieter, more convenient working environment. 

In addition to those findings, a Harvard Business School study conducted just last year showed that “work from anywhere” arrangements that allow employees to move away from the geographical location of the office increase productivity by an additional 4.4%.

Working flexibly is the biggest motivator for employees to work remotely. This is a valuable statistic for companies. Offering flexible work hours might improve retention and employee happiness.

The top 3 benefits that respondents expressed from ‘The 2020 State of Remote Work’ survey conducted by Buffer were: flexible work schedule, flexible location, and no commute!

Work-From-Home Can Be Challenging

Despite an overwhelmingly positive response to the concept of working from home, people are expressing that they do want to work at a physical workplace. Here’s why –

According to ‘The 2020 State of Remote Work’ survey conducted by Buffer, collaboration & communication, fighting loneliness,  unstructured work hours, and distractions at home were the biggest challenges faced by remote workers. Interestingly, lack of ergonomic furniture and dedicated workspace were two other additional pain points that we saw on our WorkFromHub survey results. 

In regards to workplace interaction, 31% of the WorkFromHub survey respondents expressed that they need to meet with co-workers face-to-face every single day to do their job effectively and 26% said that they need to meet with co-workers at least 2-3 times a week. 

Research Says

As per a recent JLL Work from Home Experience Survey, almost 82 percent of employees in India have shown their eagerness to go back to their offices and work. The survey was conducted with over 3,000 employees working across 10 countries and various sectors including some of the biggest office markets. According to this survey, globally, ‘missing social interactions at offices’ has got 54 percent of the votes, making it the biggest factor of all for people to miss the office. While a lack of social interactions can affect employees’ mental well being.

It is quite evident that remote working is the way forward, but work-from-home cannot be a permanent solution. It is pretty clear that we cannot work in isolation for long. While digital collaboration tools have been a great fix, they would not be able to replace in-person tea-break conversations. 

“Company cultures are hard to build over video calls”

The Way Forward 

Post lockdown, the framework of office spaces and layout will definitely change to suit physical distancing and easy disinfection routines. There might also be a change in the number of people on-site versus working remotely. This vast remote-work experiment is a great opportunity to prepare for the future as well.

Consider some data points from the recent research by Gartner:

  • By 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30% due to Generation Z fully entering the workforce. 
  • 64% of today’s professionals say they could work anywhere. (Remote work policies in place at 71% of organizations).

This is a huge cultural shift for business leaders. Embracing and adapting to this change is the only way to thrive. It is evident that businesses need to gear up and be ready to support remote working. However, they also need to recognise the importance of human connections and find ways to facilitate continued collaboration and social interaction through flexible workspaces or hubs.

Perhaps developing a more flexible and hybrid model for offices will work. Where a sizeable number of employees could work from the main office and the rest from distributed satellite offices.

Another way could be providing an allowance for remote work setup/arrangement from the employee’s end. Some companies have adopted the rotating workforce model, where alternating sections of employees take turns to work on-site. 

Conclusion

Whatever may be the way forward, the most important priority is undoubtedly the safety and well-being of all employees.

While the social distancing mandated by the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be in effect for the foreseeable future, now’s the time for organizations and teams to think about re-entry into what will be a fundamentally different workplace model.

Sandeep Sethi, JLL Managing Director, Corporate Solutions, West Asia

If businesses want to gain a competitive advantage post COVID, they need to embrace this new way of work. They will have to adopt a new dispersed yet productive workforce ecosystem and, re-imagine the workplace of tomorrow.

By Amoolya Rao

Co-Founder, WorkFromHub

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