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What COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Remote Work

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Remote Work

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Remote Work

Posted on 27 April 2020

Since Ireland and the majority of the world went into lockdown in early March, many of us have been forced to work from home. For those of us who spend our working week in the office, it’s been an excellent opportunity to see what working remotely is really like. And while some have taken to it like ducks to water, others (employers and employees alike) aren’t quite so impressed. 

Here’s what we’ve learned speaking to both clients and employees over the last few weeks. 

Productivity improves 

For many years, employers have had a negative impression of remote work. Some feel that employees lack the right motivation when outside a working environment while others simply prefer to have more control over their employees’ schedule and workload.

However, research has proven time and time again that when it comes to remote work, there is little to no negative impact on productivity. In fact, just the opposite is true. 

According to Atlassian (the company that is responsible for Trello) 76% of employees intentionally avoid the office when they need to focus on a project. 

A survey by CoSo Cloud found that 77% of remote workers said they were more productive at home. 

That same CoSo Cloud survey also found that 23% of remote workers worked longer hours while 53% were less likely to take time off than if they were working in an office. 

And it would seem that the productivity of those we spoke with recently adds further weight to those statistics. While it’s true that some employers have scaled back on their overall workload during the lockdown, employees have been quite adept at managing and completing their work from home.

But despite the positive effect of remote work on productivity, we have noticed a few downsides to working from home. 

Not everyone wants to work from home

According to a Buffer survey of 2,500 remote workers, one of the biggest challenges of working remotely is loneliness. As many as 19% of those surveyed felt that a lack of colleagues to chat with was a major disadvantage to working from home. 

Although the majority of employees now working remotely understand that this is only a temporary measure, this lack of camaraderie is one of the major factors that sees many of them waiting for a return to office life. The fact is that while employees may enjoy a day or two of remote work from time to time, there are many that thrive in a workplace environment. 

So what have we learned from this? 

This simply reinforces our belief that no two employees or candidates are the same. Where one employee may feel more productive in the home, another will feel much more motivated in the workplace. That’s why, when it comes to hiring, it’s advantageous to have some leeway in contract negotiations so that an employer can tailor a package to the needs and desires of the individual. 

Connectivity a possible issue

For those who plan to work remotely, making sure they have access to fibre broadband is often the first priority. But with huge numbers of employees unexpectedly working from home, connectivity, particularly in rural areas has been a major issue. 

The National Broadband Plan is expected to provide minimum 30 megabit broadband to all premises in Ireland. However, many areas have yet to benefit from the government backed initiative. As a result, the lockdown has inadvertently placed major importance on the rollout of fibre to each and every household in the country. 

Interestingly, according to a survey carried out for the Remote Work Future Jobs report,16.2% of remote workersmade use of co-working spaces to overcome these problems. In fact, both privately run and government backed hubs have reported an increase in demand for hot desks. 

The takeaway here for both employers and employees/candidates is to ensure that if remote work is to be a viable option, fibre broadband either in the home or in a nearby hub is an absolute must. 

Remote work not ideal for graduates or interns

Unfortunately, we’ve heard that some employers have had no option but to postpone internships or pull out of hiring graduates. While at first glance it might seem like a move to reduce costs, particularly in relation to the expected economic impact of Covid-19, this isn’t quite true. 

Interns and graduates often require an experienced employee at their shoulder to walk them through various processes and bring them up to speed. They also require constant evaluation so they understand where they need to improve. In many cases, this is simply too great a task to undertake remotely. 

For these reasons, employers are placing less emphasis on their graduate and internship programs for now. Of course, this is only a temporary measure, but it has highlighted one of the unexpected difficulties of remote work for inexperienced hires. As a result, it’s possible that we may see more employers requiring a minimum period of on-site work for new employees prior to taking up a remote role. 

The overall takeaway 

Generally speaking, we’ve been quite impressed with how employers and employees have both embraced the necessity for remote work. Companies have placed considerable trust in their employees’ abilities while many of those working from home that we have spoken to have enjoyed the experience. 

However, this difficult period has also highlighted how there are many unforeseen aspects of remote work that if dealt with incorrectly could have a detrimental effect on the productivity of employees and their overall happiness. 

The truth is that while remote work can be hugely beneficial, it’s not always the right choice. Thankfully, this lockdown has given many of us (both employers and employees) the opportunity to decide for ourselves if it’s an option worth considering in the future.

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