CoAdvantage- Remote work – or working from home (WFH) – is here to stay. It was already on the rise even before COVID-19, growing by 91% over the past ten years. But with the pandemic, it has become the new normal. In fact, many organizations are now already planning on telework as a long-term practice. Some (like Google) have already extended their teleworking arrangements well into 2021, while others (like Twitter) have made the change permanent.
But moving large segments of the workforce into a remote working arrangement on a long-term (or permanent) basis is an entirely new paradigm for getting work done, and it has significant implications for the future of the workplace. Any company that wants to be successful with long-term telework needs to be smart about how it manages its WFH program.
1: Consider which roles are best suited to working from home.
One of the trickiest things about telework is understanding its impact on productivity. There are conflicting results. Some studies find that productivity booms. Others find that it suffers or that remote work has, at best, no effect. When considering remote work for the post-pandemic future, understand that personality (disciplined, self-starter) is only a piece of the puzzle. Success with remote work also relies on specific skills, like communication skills and the ability to provide self-support when tech goes wrong, etc. The nature of the work also matters. Not all work duties are equally easy to complete outside of an office, and that must be considered in any WFH plan.
2: Don’t treat it as all-or-nothing.
Related to the above point, the best solution is probably going to be a mixture. Having remote working available increases the employer’s flexibility to accommodate change and better attract the next generation of employees. But it’s not going to be the right or best solution all the time in every circumstance. As the pandemic recedes, employees may well return to the office, but with flex options that give them and their employer more power to get work done more efficiently and effectively.
3: Understand that widespread remote work is a work in progress.
Employers don’t need final answers today; all of this is a work in progress. Harvard Law Today asked Sharon Block, executive director of the Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, and Benjamin Sachs, Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry and faculty co-director of the Labor and Worklife Program, about how COVID-19 has changed the workplace. They noted, “Issues facing long-term teleworkers are still emerging, and there are early warning signals that there may be psychological impacts, work-family balance challenges, an increase in employer surveillance, and inconsistencies in compliance with wage and hour law.” These are all issues to which employers will have to remain vigilant and which may necessitate ongoing adjustments to telework programs over time.
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