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
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
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.