As someone who worked from home before coronavirus (COVID-19) encouraged many others to do so, Ben has some interesting observations about the benefits and pitfalls of the mass work experiment the world is going through.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has seen many industries have to evolve on the fly, with virtual meetings and other online tools becoming the norm, replacing face-to-face communication. But has it been a good or bad thing for the workforce?
Necessity is the mother of invention, and now, it’s necessary to adapt. Businesses have been fast-tracking their processes so people are set up to work from home, using programs like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack and more. While you may not be able to talk to your co-workers face-to-face, now they’re nothing more than a message away.
Working from home has seen industries that might otherwise have been stuck in their ways evolve overnight, or what they call ‘pivot’, often making things better for their employees, as well as potentially improving productivity. Jeremy Fleming, owner of Sydney-based outdoor-event-staging company Stagekings saw the changes coming because of the coronavirus so has begun making furniture for people working from home, keeping his employees working, and helping out an Australian workforce that has rapidly had to adapt. It’s a win-win all round.
Change in work culture
There’s no doubt in my mind that post-coronavirus, things won’t go back to the way they were beforehand. A recent Gartner HR survey revealed that 88% of organisations have encouraged or required employees to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s the first time in history that this many of Australia’s employees have simultaneously been required to work from home, and it’s shown that a lot of industries that previously thought their work required them to be in the office can actually be done from home. There’s been a shift in the way people think about work and working from home that might become even more widespread than it was just a short time ago.
Elimination of the commute
If you’ve worked far away from your home, you know how much of a struggle the morning commute can be. If you take public transport, it can take an hour or more each way, which eats into time with your partner, family, friends and hobbies. Being able to work from home instantly gives you back the time that you’d have otherwise spent on the train, bus, tram, or car.
Data from the 2016 census showed that Australians travelled an average of 16kms to work each day, which can take up a significant part of your non-working day. However, in some places, the commute is a lot longer – such as the Central Darling Shire area, where the median distance travelled for work was a whopping 156kms each way. More time for the things and the people you love? Sounds good to me.
Privacy and security or data breaches
While it’s great that new technology is being used as businesses adapt to working remotely, with new technology comes new privacy and security concerns. Video conferencing service Zoom has been the subject of security concerns, with many of its features designed to make video meetings more streamlined at the expense of confidentiality.
The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab recently published research looking at the weaknesses in Zoom’s encryption scheme, as well as other potential areas of concern in the software’s infrastructure. It’s a reminder that as much as new technology is helpful, it’s important to understand the potential security risks that come with introducing new technology into your business.
To ensure your safety and security online, check out resources from the Australian e-Safety Commissioner.
Dissolution of ‘office hours’
When you go to work, that’s when you begin; and when you leave, that’s when you finish. But if you’re working from home, you’re more likely to be accessible around the clock and being physically away from the office is no longer a barrier.
A 2014 Morgan McKinley survey found that 91% of Australian professionals were working more hours than their contract stated – and this is likely to happen even more when working from home. When your home becomes your office, you’re always open for business, so being firm with your employers will make working from home a much more enjoyable experience.
Your living arrangements now impact your work
For some people, it’s a lot easier to work from home than others. Having dependents in your household (such as young children or the older family members) means that while working from home might be the only option to continue your work, it doesn’t mean it’ll be simple. The necessity for people to work from home creates a divide between people that can work from home without disruption and those that can’t.
Not everyone is set up to work from home and perform to their optimum level, so it’s important to make sure they don’t get left behind. Real Simple has put together a guide for working from home, as well as a couple of mistakes to avoid when doing so.
Working from home has both positive and negative aspects and making sure you know how you work best for you is crucial. It’s also important to talk to your co-workers about how to get set up as best you can. Who knows, if this proves to be a better way of working for people, then it might just become the new norm in the future.