When COVID-19 struck in early 2020, it upended structures and norms that have been in place for decades. From how we communicate and greet one another, to supply chain structures, how and where we work, and beyond, it truly served as a rude awakening, forcing us to stop and question things we’ve taken for granted in the past.
Within the scope of the workplace, this impact manifested itself in how and where employees worked from. While most companies have been historically adamant in their stance on in-office presence, government-mandated lockdowns left them with no choice and forced their hand if they wanted to ensure some semblance of operational viability.
The pandemic also brought about what came to be known as the “Great Resignation.” As the term suggests, employees began quitting their jobs en-masse. The involuntary reprieve offered by lockdowns gave people a much-needed break from the 9-5 rat race, which allowed many to reconsider and reflect on their current roles amid an increasing cost of living and unfulfilling jobs and benefits. With mass layoffs worldwide making the headlines, employees came to realise that they are merely replaceable assets on the corporate chess board. This served as a moral push for them to finally pursue new and more fulfilling roles (not to mention a renewed drive towards self-employment, either as entrepreneurs or content creators on platforms like TikTok and YouTube), while demanding more benefits from hiring managers than ever before. Chief among these was the option to be able to work from home, whether in a fully remote or hybrid capacity.
Soon enough, triggered by global circumstances and a more demanding workforce, remote working quickly became a buzzword and a practice engaged in by ‘innovative’ and ‘tech-savvy’ companies, with Twitter and Facebook among the companies championing it. With big tech leading the charge, most startups and SMEs that could incorporate this new working configuration implemented it, and made sure to let you know on their social media pages. Almost overnight, a practice that was deemed nonviable by traditional and authoritarian managers had become the new standard.
Besides the allure of appearing modern and with-the-times, remote and hybrid working allowed companies to cut costs. Less staff on premises meant companies would have to rent a smaller office space, spend less on hardware and utility costs, reduce spending on taxes and visa expenses as well as fuel reimbursements, and more. In fact, in a country like the US, companies can save an average of over $11,000 per year per employee working remotely for 50% of the time, as per an estimate by research firm Global Workplace Analytics.
Two years later in 2022, the HR landscape is forever changed. Remote working is becoming less of a fad and more of a fixture of job descriptions. A focus on employee wellbeing is becoming more widespread, especially as job candidates increasingly judge hiring companies based on the employee benefits offered. After all, the Great Resignation has offered them leverage in this regard, as there are more jobs available than ever before, faced with much pickier candidates. Gender, race and pay equality have seen a notable improvement, as remote working opens the door to a much larger pool of candidates of different backgrounds and locations. Additionally, more and more companies are stepping to the forefront to support firms in onboarding remote staff - like the UAE’s RemotePass, for example.
While remote working has been a great boon to employees, businesses, the economy and environment, it has introduced its own set of challenges, like the blurring border between on- and off-duty hours, as well as new mental health obstacles to navigate.
The next step for companies and staff worldwide will revolve around overcoming the drawbacks that come with this new working paradigm.