The pandemic has shone a light on the way we work, revealing what some of us may have felt for some time: We don't always need to be in the office. We quickly found that, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we actually can work productively at home. As companies shift from crisis management to planning the new normal, it's clear that the effects of Covid-19 on the way we work will long outlive the virus.
Many still don't. But according to a post-Covid-19 global survey by Global Workplace Analytics, 94% of workers say they want to work from home at least occasionally in the future. Two-thirds said they work "very successfully" from home. There were once fundamental technological barriers to this, but now the digital toolkit for remote knowledge workers is incredibly effective and progressing at an astounding rate, says Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and co-author of The Second Machine Age and Machine, Platform, Crowd. "What's more, recessions accelerate technological changes by driving efficiency," he explains. "We can expect many companies to deploy more tech over the coming months."
For many companies, the most pressing emphasis is on finding the right balance between remote and in-person work, learning how to manage remote teams and facilitating effective collaboration. These are all skills that will take time to master.
Managing communication is one of the hardest aspects to remote working. To find the right approach, companies must discuss how often team members should connect virtually during the week and with what tools. Some interactions might be more suitable for delayed communication platforms, like email, which allows team members time to think and prioritize before responding – a favored approach among experienced remote teams. Other topics might require instant communication tools, where team members interact in real time.
Remote work isn't for everyone, and when the pandemic eventually passes, some will still favor the daily interaction and work-life divide the office brings. It turns out that plenty of those meetings really could have been emails; some of those conferences could have just been watched online; and giving employees greater freedom and flexibility can make them happier and more productive.