With Coronavirus becoming increasingly disruptive to workplaces around the globe, more and more company executives are deciding to implement remote work policies. This raises the question, can working from home ever be as productive as office work?
The Rise of Remote Work
Remote work is something many companies have trialled over the past decade, often using it as a selling point when enticing new employees. Employee dissatisfaction and the ongoing quest for work-life balance have pushed many companies to adopt more flexible policies when it comes to where their employees are based and how many days a week it is necessary to physically be in the office. Many companies have reported boosted productivity, happier workforce and increased employee loyalty; however, remote work is not without its risk as well.
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Now, companies are in a situation in which they are having to employ remote work strategies in order to reduce the risk of further spreading coronavirus. Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook have actively encouraged their Seattle-based employees to work from home, at least until the end of the month. Business travel, conferences and summits are being cancelled cross-sector in favour of virtual meetings – anything that reduces physical contact and especially international exposure. Apple is the latest company telling employees not to come to work; a policy which they have extended across the majority of their corporate locations including Seattle, UK, Germany, Italy, Japan, California, South Korea, Switzerland and France. They are reducing the number of people in their customer-facing roles in retail stores and reducing Genius Bar availability.
The Future of Companies
Many industry experts are saying that this will have a long-term impact on the way that companies work. Previous naysayers of remote work may find that they prefer it, whilst managerial styles, formerly reserved to face-to-face interaction, may adapt to accommodate remote workers.
The Luxury of Remote Work
It is important to recognise that all of these shifts in the direction of remote work are industry-specific and there are still some workers for whom remote work is impossible. Whilst tech positions are easily handled from home, customer-facing jobs and manual labourers do not have it so easy. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics in the US, the percentages of workers who are able to work from home in these industries are very small: 22% of sales workers, 11% of office administration workers, 11% of service workers, 10% of maintenance and repair workers, 16% of construction workers, 8% of transportation workers and 6% of production workers.