With the rampant rise of coronavirus infections, most companies that are deemed non-essential have been forced to close. In order to continue business operations, organisations have scrambled to make remote working arrangements plausible for their employees.
Great news though, after months and months of working from home - news is that phase 3 and the further reopening of our economy is not too far away! This means that more home based workers can soon return to office.
"So is it a yay or a nay?"
Opinions are divided with many sitting in the middle camp of a hybrid WFH approach.
This abrupt shift to remote working has proven a valuable experiment to companies across the globe, with a third of Singaporeans reporting that they feel more productive.
This has led to many employers considering if the remote working policy can be continued even beyond a post-coronavirus world. Countless cost savings and productivity questions abound - is there even a need for employees to be physically present when productivity is not affected? And if that is the case, will companies even need a huge physical office in an expensive CBD district?
While we would love to say being physically in office is unnecessary when there are so many benefits to remote working, we must not also forget that the changing dynamics of work within remote working have also caused many employees to experience difficulties in managing work relationships and communication.
Every organisation’s culture and teams are built differently and remote working may not work for some.
BGC presents to you a list of the pros and cons to for HR policy makers and leadership to consider:
Biggest wins for remote working
Flexibility in working hours
The greatest benefit of working remotely is in its flexibility. In remote work, the most important thing is to manage a functional work schedule. With clearly defined deliverables and deadlines, workers are able to prioritise tasks based on their deadlines and importance, allowing them to have the freedom to choose when to work and what to work on. As long as their jobs are completed in a timely and accurate manner, employees can use the leftover time to pursue their personal projects which brings them a step closer to work-life integration.
Flexibility in working location
Other than the flexibility of time, remote working also allows the flexibility of location. With remote working, as long as workers have the appropriate software required, they will be able to work from virtually anywhere in the world. This is a major advantage for companies whose workforce primarily relies on contract labour as they are able to seek remote workers from countries with a lower cost of labour.
Reduced cost of working for employees
Both employees and employers experience a reduced cost of working. For employees, this takes place in the form of reduced spending on miscellaneous items. Without the need to travel to the workplace, not only are employees able to have more time to sleep, they also spend less time on commuting. Working at home also in Singapore means that most employees will have access to more affordable costs with food from neighbourhood hawkers or being able to cook for themselves compared to the expensive dining options in the central business district.
Reduced cost of working for employers
For employers, a major reduction of cost comes in the form of operating expenses. Instead of renting office spaces from landlords and paying for the utilities and employee amenities, companies will be able to work completely virtually. Workers who are employed under the remote working scheme have also shown to have higher retention rates compared to those that work in a physical office. This reduces the time and money spent by an organisation on hiring and training new employees to replace those that have left.
Biggest losses for remote working
Difficulty in unplugging from work
While employees gain the benefits of flexible working hours, many have stated that they found it difficult to feel disconnected from their work. After all, working at home can possibly cause people to view their home as an office space rather than a residential area. This in turn could lead to a worse state of mental health especially if employees are unable to feel relaxed and comfortable after working hours. In addition, flexible working arrangements may cause some of those unaccustomed to remote working to procrastinate, which may result in them working after official working hours in order to catch up, developing into an unhealthy work culture.
Lack of communication
Due to the sudden deployment of remote working, it is not a surprise that many have found difficulties in communicating with co-workers. After all, communication in remote working is much more impersonal especially if it was seldom carried out through texts. Workers might also have a hard time identifying the tone of voice in virtual communication if they are not well acquainted with the other party. Moreover, collaboration might be harder if teams do not have the required enterprise software to conduct agile project management.
Feelings of Loneliness
While many like to keep their work and life separate, it is undeniable that work in itself is a big part of social life in Singapore. For those that crave that human contact and face to face conversations, they might have problems adjusting to the more impersonal and stranger method of working remotely. While this might seem like a trivial issue at a glance, close to 20% of remote workers complained that they experienced loneliness as a result of working remotely.
Here's our perspective
Remote working is not just a different way to work but also a different way to live. Just like the traditional office model, there are many unique things to consider before deciding to adopt the change. When setting remote working policies, it is important for employers to be familiar with both its benefits and shortcomings in order to create an efficient remote work environment.