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Weighing up the positives and negatives of remote working

remote working
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It’s been over a year since companies across the world started to recommend that employees work from home, as a deadly new virus spread across the globe. A year on, perhaps one of the many unexpected consequences of the pandemic has been a complete restructuring of the way we work.

For a long time, jobs that offered employees the ability to work from home were widely attractive, perhaps seen as an indication of a progressive workplace that afforded staff a degree of flexibility and autonomy. With a lack of infrastructure or culture in place to support remote working, however, many of those working from home experienced isolation, disorganization, and low productivity. Many tried to improve this, but were often shunned by employers and employees alike, who eschewed tech in place of tradition. Covid-19 has changed all of this by effectively levelling the playing field and forcing the majority to work from home, a definitive inflection point.

About the author

Ivan Soto-Wright is co-founder and CEO at MoonPay 

Video conferencing, virtual meetings and chat platforms have, by virtue of necessity, become the new normal for employees, enabling greater connectivity in an environment where in-person social interaction has been limited. Collaborative tools which were once ignored have become increasingly popular in the workplace and beyond, enabling individuals to connect, work together and chat, no matter where they are physically located.

Increased globalization

The breath-taking speed with which Covid-19 spread across the world took even the most erudite medical professionals by surprise, highlighting just how interconnected and interdependent our global society really is. In this increasingly globalized world, many businesses also strive not only to reach new markets, but to carefully understand the regions they serve. 

The recent proliferation of remote working has only served to support the expansion of companies to new markets—no longer do businesses need to set up dedicated offices to maintain an international presence, and no longer do they need to limit their search for employees to a single talent pool.

An internationally-based workforce brings with it a wealth of benefits and improved efficiencies, despite having to operate across myriad time zones. By virtue of our globally located team, we can offer support 24/7 across every single geography. In addition, an international outlook when hiring enables greater diversity of thought and skillsets. Widening out the prospective talent pool and allowing companies to attract better expertise naturally delivers a better service, as prospective employees are not constrained by time zones, borders or nationality.

Benefits for employees

Employees are beginning to reap the benefits as remote working becomes increasingly accepted and normalized.

Time and money that was previously spent on the daily commute can be “repurposed” to support a better work-life balance, and the longstanding fear that allowing people more autonomy and control over their working day has been dissolved, with many companies instead seeing huge increases in productivity.

Moreover, without the need to conduct work at an office, remote workers can live in more lifestyle-oriented regions with better access to nature and leisure amenities, in many cases leading to both greater happiness and production.

The new world

While we are unlikely to ever see a return to the orthodox workplace with its requisite Monday to Friday office routine, we must still recognize the benefits that an office “hub” can deliver.

As a species, humans need social interaction to thrive. The social cues which we all subconsciously read are less easy to understand remotely, and simply trying to supplant these important interactions with constant virtual meetings and messages may not be a viable alternative.

In-person meetings, lunches with co-workers and “water cooler chat” have traditionally formed an integral, but little-acknowledged part of our social lives, leaving a void to be filled post-Covid-19. People will continue to crave the in-person experience, while still appreciating the ability to dial into meetings from the comfort of home. Workplaces will need to discover the sweet spot as the world transitions over the next year, with in-person company socials gradually finding their place in our lives again.