Remote working is not new. The trend is on an upswing for a while in many industries. Taking a few days off from the stressful commute, to baby-sit, or to tend to a sick family member is acceptable.
Predictions of a new world order post coronavirus are doing the rounds. One prominent prediction is that the future of work will be entirely remote. Imagine an entire office working virtual for the full year? That’s a stretch by any company standards.
Here’s why large-scale remote is not happening soon.
1. Technology Bottlenecks
Technical challenges continue to mar the remote experience. Broken WiFi, patchy mobile networks, power failures, and the list is long. To add to the woes, organisations’ security polices prevent access to a majority of systems from the outside world. Video conferences today are business conducted between technical challenges. Unless organisations invest in remote-enabled infrastructure, the technical issues will dominate.
2. Social Creatures
The water-cooler in the office is there for a reason. It quenches thirst. And curiosity. As social creatures, interaction with fellow species is important for humans. We need the comfort of being connected to others and belonging to a tribe. The biological pull is powerful. We will head back to offices at the first opportunity.
Teams work on trust – the oil that keeps the engine running. Establishing and ensuring the trust is challenging. How do leaders build trust with their remote teams? Likewise, how can remote teams set up uninterrupted and uncluttered communication with their managers and organisations? To what extent should managers check remote workers? Trust deficit is a major hurdle organisation needs to overcome in a remote setup.
With dispersed teams, productivity takes a hit. Many reports and experiments show a dip in productivity levels with prolonged isolation. Communication becomes a challenge. Ironing out differences over a coffee wouldn’t be easy. The psychological bonding teams have in person, is difficult to replicate online.
Remote teams always have disadvantages over physical teams. Being closer to the decision makers, being seen and heard, and living the company’s culture places physical teams at an helpful position. FOMO (fear of missing out) will drive ambitious people back to office.
6. Not A Choice
For many setups remote working is not a choice. Employees have to turn up on the clock and make themselves available on the shop floor, front office, or wherever they are expected to be.
A Distant Dream
The epidemic raises severe concerns over the safety of employees in the workplace. Employees will expect employers to deploy better measures to prevent another episode. We will see social norms changing for the good; for instance, allowing a sick co-worker extended work from home till full recovery.
But, a full-scale remote office? Still a distant dream until we overcome the major challenges.
Until then, brace yourselves for commutes and traffic jams coming your way. Soon.