World 2.0 belongs to remote

The truth comes out. #NewYorkerCartoons. newyorkermag

The New Normal

As the present workforce grapples with the new normal, managing schedules and averting the risk of burnouts, once the system is streamlined to allow for better work-life balance, remote working can prove to be the boon of one’s professional life.

  • Work from home: office in your house
  • Work in a traditional office setup
  • Working in a pandemic — No social life, no vacation, no sports, little interactions 😭

The Benefits

Well, it isn’t hard to guess who the binary beneficiaries are in this situation, so I’ll directly delve into the benefits that remote employers and employees can reap, and as a bonus, we’ll talk about the environmental impact as well.

Benefits for employers

  1. Job satisfaction: As remote workers tend to be more satisfied from their jobs and likely to stay in their current job for the next five years 13% more than their on-site colleagues (Owl Labs), employers end up saving a lot of money and resources that goes in the hiring process and finding the best-suited candidate for the job.
  2. Sense of belonging: Not only are remote workers more engaged than office workers by putting in longer hours, they also develop a stronger sense of belonging than their on-site counterparts. As per the latest Gallup State of the American Workplace report, it was found that regardless of the fact that remote workers often communicate with their teams only over the internet, they feel like their opinions matter and their work receives its due acknowledgment.
  3. Work-life balance: Further, the flexibility of remote working (be it work from home or any other place) allows the majority of workers to take only 2–3 weeks of vacation per year since they have more control over their schedules and therefore, do not require as much time off as their office-going counterparts.

Benefits for employees

Now, let’s look at factors other than flexibility that contribute to the satisfaction of remote workers.

  1. Not having to commute: Saving time and money and all the hassles of driving and public transport, sure, why not? Time spent in traffic will look as bizarre as sending letters to communicate in 2021. It just adds to human inefficiency.
  2. Being with Family: Ability to spend time more time with family and be near your loved ones.
  3. Global jobs: Working with people across the globe on opportunities that excite you.

Benefits for the environment

A few months into the lockdown, we all came across news reports of decreased pollution levels all over the world, thanks to ‘not having to commute’. Employees working from home helps companies in cutting their electricity costs. And, let’s agree to the fact that while working at home, we use less electricity than we would in the office.

  • Reduction in traffic accidents: Up to $500 million can be saved
  • Reduction in oil usage: Up to $1 billion can be saved
  • Reduction in air pollution: Up to 83 million pounds can be avoided
  • Reduction in Carbon emissions: Equivalent to planting 92 million trees!

Impact on Productivity

Let’s start with the question of productivity, since it is a key parameter for any business to assess its workforce, a valid question that arises is whether remote work will be able to ensure the same levels of productivity as that of on-site employees. Multiple studies have reached the same conclusion — Remote workers are more productive! Here’s why

Remote workers are less distracted

In this 2012 Stanford study, it was found that remote work leads to increased levels of productivity, up by 13% to be exact, thanks to a less distracting environment. Since organizations are now transitioning to open office space layouts bustling with a myriad of activities, a lot of employees no longer have access to quiet spaces and find it difficult to concentrate on their desks.

Remote workers work more

In Owl Labs’ 2019 State of Remote Work report, it was found that remote workers work 43% more than on-site workers and tend to be more goal-oriented than just focusing on the number of hours.

Remote workers are efficient

The open office distractions vanish when working at home, which comes with its own set of distractions (more on that later). In addition to increased levels of productivity, remote workers also deliver more on performance, thanks to them having more autonomy over their work. Combining results from the various reports mentioned earlier, it was found that remote workers produce results with 40% fewer quality defects.

Impact on Income

Now that you have an idea about the benefits of working remotely, let us find out how remote workers fare against their on-site counterparts. We compared the results of various surveys done over the past few years and these are our takeaways

  • Remote workers save more: In the report by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, it was found that remote workers save more, around $4,000 a year, other reports suggest even higher savings
  • Experience pays: As per this And Co report, 7% of workers who’ve been remote for under a year earn over 100k, this number jumps to 18% for those who’ve worked remotely for 7 years or more

Globalization

Save for the globe-trotting, “wanderlust” tattoo flaunting cliches of life, the true value of globalization is felt through our regular lives. For a person in India wearing an American brand, eating a European snack, and using a Korean face mask, globalization is doing what it promised to do. When it comes to working, this extends to the concept of value addition.

More competition, the better

The pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted not just markets but an entire world view. With remote work coming in as the savior of companies, salaries, and of course, economies, the centerpiece for being recognized as a true talent in the market resides in a highly competitive arena. Now while you may think that “As if it was any easier before, now I have to deal with more competition”, let me say this out clearly:

Competition is not just with talent

Let us consider the case of computing jobs in the US. From this data released on code.org, we can see that the US has a lot more computing jobs than cs grads. It technically can’t operate without getting talent from outside. The question here is one pertaining to employment and vacant job positions.

On the countryside

While moving on to a better market is an understandable step towards professional growth, it has often left source nations bereft of their skilled workforce and if nothing else, a very homesick individual. With remote work, all of these changes.

What are the challenges?

At this point, I would like to highlight a few challenges that remote workers and employees face and then present a few solutions to tackle them. In our survey, we asked remote workers about their struggles with remote work and found that the trends are similar to that of other surveys.

  1. Roughly 37% of respondents find it difficult to unplug themselves at the end of the day. Having flexible work hours implies that you can allocate a lot more time to your work than in office and end up being overworked, eventually leading to burnout.
  2. Collaborating over Slack and Zoom calls can definitely get the work done but the human connection that workers get to build in an office takes a toll as they start feeling isolated. In fact, 42% of our respondents said that collaboration and communication was one of their biggest struggles.
  3. Distractions at home emerged as the biggest struggle to working remotely as many people face more distractions at home than they would at the workplace (especially workers with families and kids).
  4. Roughly 28% of respondents said that finding a reliable internet connection is difficult for them.
  5. Our survey found out that most workers are employed by foreign companies, which brings its own set of challenges, read ‘Time Zones’. However, thanks to the weird sleeping patterns of Indians (see above), only 11% of our respondents said that they struggled with different time zones.

How can I tackle them?

Here are a few solutions that I found to be quite effective in the remote working industry

Productivity Tools

The productivity and the unplugging bit can be solved to a large extent with the help of productivity tools, there are loads of them which help you manage your time and tasks (I’m planning to write about them in the next issue). As a remote worker, you’ll have to define your working hours (depending on the project) and ensure that you don’t cross the time you have allocated yourself.

The Role of HR

The Role of HR has to change! The company HR has the extraordinary job of ensuring a seamless job experience for remote employees.

Third Space

This term basically implies a place where one can go to spend some valuable time and de-stress/relax. Even while working at home, it is important to set a designated workplace, so that all the other activities like sleeping and relaxing take place at some place else.

Other highlights of our survey

  • Most of our respondents were happy working remotely, with more than 68% of them saying that they would recommend working remotely.
  • Almost 43% of the respondents said they were happy with the amount of time they spend working remotely and around 34% of them expressed that they would like to work remotely more often.
  • Around 55% of the respondents spend more than 75% of their work time working remotely and almost 20% of respondents said that they allocate 50–75% of their time to remote work.
  • When asked about the organization structure of their employers, 44% of them said that they are fully remote, 44% said that they are partially remote and partially on-site. Only 12% of respondents said that they operate mostly on-site.

Summary: The Long and Short of Things

A word for remote workers

While companies are yet to figure out the non-financial perks, which probably means your company logo merchandise will not be coming in anytime soon, remote work brings you a golden chance to choose your professional life as well as your personal life.

A word for remote employers

There are some genuine problems that you’ll face as an employer. It’s extremely important to acknowledge these problems openly and be vocal about it.

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