Remote work is the new normal, right? Not so fast, silicon valley.
Many companies in the technology industry have been allowing employees to work remotely for years. Additionally, many training professionals for businesses do the same, with a considerable percentage of their job responsibilities being remote-friendly. Some of the biggest tech names, including Facebook and Twitter, have told their employees they can live remotely and telework permanently. Some executives have even gone as far as to say telework is the new normal in their sector, and individuals will work from home “forever.” That statement seems a bit far fetched, as it appears there is always something to be done in person. Yet, many silicon valley notables believe otherwise.
Not all giant tech conglomerates think this way, though. For example, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who recently sent out a letter to his workforce of more than 130,000 employees, stated he pushed back his employees’ return to work date until September 2021. He went on to say that at the beginning of this virus, we didn’t know what to do as a collective, and the best option was to work remotely for the foreseeable future. But now that a successful vaccine is on the horizon, Google employees should expect to return to work in person in September, working at least three days per week on-site. As we take a closer glance at remote work and its efficacy, industries are at the forefront of the conversation.
If you work for your city as a waste collector, odds are, you’re never going to work remotely and haven’t been since the pandemic started. Now that we’ve gotten an obvious example out of the way, let’s say you’re in an industry that totes the remote-friendly line—for example, a constructional engineer. You may be able to do some work remotely, like drawing up designs and blueprints, but even then, you’ll be required to go to the site where you’re building to gain a better sense of the space you have. Furthermore, once building commences, you’ll have to carefully assess the project’s structural, electrical, and mechanical integrity as it increasingly becomes more involved.
Perhaps you work in higher education, and your position requires you to keep track of and update records, manually enter grades, and correspond with students. Generally speaking, you can do all of this from home. As long as you have a computer and reliable internet connection, there’s nothing stopping you from completing your task requirements. However, as we further examine the pros and cons of remote work, we must bring to light the outright efficiency and collaboration a traditional office brings. Sure, you can use Zoom and Microsoft Teams as a way to hold staff meetings and communicate with your employees. Not to mention, these platforms have recently become more advanced, allowing individuals to share their screens, give presentations, and even draw. However, there is something to be said for collaborating in person.
Have you ever sat in on a meeting where groundbreaking ideas were generated and eventually came alive? If you have, you understand the importance of socializing and constructing in-person feedback. You can’t duplicate having the brightest of minds all in one room discussing innovation. Take, for example, the vaccines recently made. Chances are, they weren’t created remotely; instead, in a biological lab somewhere with incredible ingenuity. I am sure developing the vaccine was a group effort on the scientists’ part, and it just goes to show how significant a team setting can be.
Now, I am neither undermining nor overstating the noteworthiness of remote work. The same way scientists search for innovative methods to create a vaccine; we must examine our work methodologies and seek out the most efficient one possible. Remote work, large in part, can be and already is booming in many industries. Some people even believe remote work provides an environment more conducive to productivity for employees. According to one study, remote workers work almost 1.5 more days per month than their in-person counterparts. Many supervisors cite their employees not having to commute, worry about what they wear, and fewer meetings and distractions as indicators as to why.
However, more recent studies show many employees aren’t turning off their work, with one even showing employees working more than three hours longer than they’re supposed to. More people are working past their scheduled times and late into the evening, which can become troublesome for any work field. When the pandemic first started, many people thought remote work would become a refreshing, new way to work. It may have been for a short time. After all, who doesn’t love working in their pajamas? But past that, all formalities were eventually thrown out the window. Remember when it was somewhat rude to e-mail someone in the middle of their evening about a work-related issue? That’s over. Many people feel they can’t “escape work.” With much to do and nowhere to go, there’s a propensity to work beyond regular hours.
As a collective workforce, we cannot allow our lives to be dictated by companies, pandemic or not. The term work-life balance was created for a reason, and as of now, the pendulum is only swinging in one direction for most people. There are some prosperous stories of those working from home and enjoying the benefits, but lately, they seem to be few and far between. I do believe remote work is beneficial in specific industries, which gives us a broader view. If this pandemic has taught us anything from a work-related perspective, it’s to rethink the way we do so. Process improvements have been made, and radically redefined workflows are happening due to remote work stemming from the pandemic.
We should be proud of the increased productivity that has occurred in several industries. Yet, I hope that we don’t get so caught up in results that we forget about the people who are producing them or feel we never need to meet in person with our colleagues again. Because at the end of the day, we all need social interaction, and some of the most revolutionary ideas this world has ever seen came from a group of people collaborating face-to-face.