The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a tectonic shift in work cultures across the globe. Businesses now know that their staff can be equally productive while lying on their beds in pyjamas. Can technology overcome the initial roadblocks, as lines between workspaces and homes continue to blur?
The alarm goes off and after the habitual hitting of the snooze button a couple of times, you are able to win against the magnetic pull of your bed. Despite having slept for eight hours straight, you feel exhausted – so much so that your limbs seem like wet noodles. The thought of commuting for an hour and a half makes you tap into the wishful zone of thinking - if only you could open a café in the mountains and escape the cruelties inflicted by a hectic schedule!
For many workers, grappling with such escapist sentiments is a routine affair. The elusive dream of attaining work-life balance while having it all – a successful career, a healthy lifestyle, and ample time for recreation and family – finds universal resonance. Owing to this, the demand for remote and flexible working apparatuses has been growing.
As the advantages of conventional work arrangements continue to be scrutinized, organizations across the globe have been waking up to the realization of the need for change to keep workforces satisfied. Team meetings are now peppered with questions of the well-being of the attendees and their loved ones; children bawling amidst virtual meetings are no longer seen as reasons to apologise.
In recent years, businesses have adopted practices that afford greater flexibility to their employees. And the results have been encouraging. Many organizations, however, have been slow to catch up, owing to the labyrinth processes required to set up effective work-from-home policies. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a tectonic shift in work cultures across the globe. As governments imposed nationwide lockdowns, businesses had no option but to allow employees to work from home.
This ‘new normal’ has made employers re-evaluate the trust they repose in employees and to gain a fresh perspective regarding the conduciveness of remote arrangements with respect to the physical and mental well-being of employees. It has led to the emergence of new challenges, such as issues of data vulnerability and the ability of existing technologies to facilitate the mass switch to working from anywhere, without hampering operations drastically.
Covid-19 and the merging of workplaces and homes
The recalibration in work arrangements has benefits for the environment as well. In an era when climate change is a burgeoning problem, environmental concerns are becoming major determinants in the way business processes evolve.
As countries imposed travel restrictions, sealed their borders and ordered factories and industrial units to shut, a record decrease in air pollution levels was recorded across the globe. Also, employees not having to commute to their workplaces and air conditioning and heating units in office buildings lying unused meant a significant compression in individual and collective carbon footprints.
Should you wish to see how the work-from-home policy has contributed to the health of the environment, you can check out Impact reporting’s calculator that shows the amount of energy and costs saved through telecommuting. In fact, many studies have shown that the work-from-home set-up has curtailed commuter travel and energy use by a whopping 80%.
A report by the World Economic Forum about the future of work states, “A growing number of employers are also finding that decreased overheads are favourable for shareholders in the midst of deep economic uncertainty. This has begged the question as to whether the benefits truly outweigh the costs of commercial real estate."
Telecommuting can also augur better standards of living for employees. Housing choices will no longer be burdened by the necessity of factoring in distances from offices. People will be more open to choosing properties in peripheral areas that are budget-friendly, spacious, and high on the facilities quotient.
The need for new technologies
Any shift in organizational cultures comes with its own set of teething problems. Many employers become concerned about employees remaining productive in the absence of vigilance that is typical in office spaces. Employees, too, find it difficult to unplug and set work-life boundaries. Loneliness and troubles in maintaining seamless collaboration and communication with team members also prove to be pain points.
Despite these hiccups, the work-from-home paradigm is a clear winner. The lockdowns have been an eye-opener for businesses – they now know that their staff can be equally motivated and productive while lying on their beds in pyjamas. Employees across the world have also echoed this sentiment and expressed the desire to continue working from home even after the pandemic subsides.
This brings us to the question whether existing technological tools would be sufficient to keep pace with these changes. The answer is a resounding ‘no’. There is a need for remote work platforms that troubleshoot the most common problems plaguing workers.
An instance of that would be Wurkr, an immersive and engaging video platform that replicates physical office spaces.
Irrespective of their time zones, users can collaborate with their colleagues in real-time. The interface has features like screen sharing, visibility of meetings in other offices or floors, breakouts and meeting rooms for private discussions, and even provisions to invite guests or external clients into the office.
Wurkr exemplifies how technology can overcome the initial roadblocks, as lines between workspaces and homes continue to blur. The goal is to retain the positives of traditional working arrangements such as healthy engagements among team members and an enjoyable office culture, without exposing workers to the virus. And there is no better way to do it than by embracing novel technologies.