"Virtual employment" has been embraced enthusiastically by some. Others have found it to be an unwanted intrusion into their lives. One study in Canada, the "11th Annual Salary Guide," found that two in five employees (43%) believe their companies have failed to provide measures that support their well-being throughout the pandemic. The lack of social interaction (45%), isolation/loneliness (27%) and increased workload (25%) being the main reasons. What can be said for sure is that things will never return to the way they were.
The virtual workplace has four major benefits:
- Cost savings. The obvious saving being significantly reduced office costs. Meanwhile, wage and benefit costs - especially if a large number of administrative staff can be recruited from low wage areas of the country or even offshore - can be trimmed. If you are based in a high-cost city such as San Francisco, London or Sydney this is no small thing. There is evidence that remote employees work an additional 1.4 days per month than in-office employees. (Inc. Magazine, October 2019.) The same source suggests that remote workers save over $4,000 per year on travel costs (compared to in-office employees).
- Lifestyle. There are an increasing number of city dwellers who - for lifestyle, the cost of housing and family reasons - would love to replace concrete with grass, a high-rise balcony with a garden and a seat on the subway with a quiet cup of coffee at home. Family health is especially impactful. Even after a workable COVID-19 vaccine is available, what will continue to be an emotional burden well into the future is the sense of vulnerability, the feelings of helplessness and the fear that accompanies a pandemic.
- Monitoring performance. Remote work is relatively easy to monitor. Tracking ongoing productivity and key outcomes is invaluable. Expect the technology in this respect to advance in leaps and bounds.
- Organisation agility. When fixed costs are replaced by variable costs, additions - or reductions - in the workforce become easier to manage. Moreover, having developed the tools to support a virtual workforce - webinars, products, video meetings, distance learning - greater value can be derived from the established training and development budget.
The benefits of remote working as decribed are far from the end of the story. Beyond this crisis lies, what well may be, an even bigger social upheaval. Many of the positions currently being moved away from the traditional office represent exactly the type of work that technology will disrupt/replace tomorrow. While employees work to become proficient in Zoom and other video-based communication tools, an army of technologists are working on Artificial Intelligence, algorithms and alternative ways for "the machine" to make further inroads into routine work.
Extract from "Virtual Employment: Don't Assume One Size Fits All" Orxestra Inc., © 2021