Remote work itself is not the issue - Deepstash

Remote work itself is not the issue

The problem is that although most office workers are currently working from home, they still work in an office-centric manner.

Most of our work practices are based around location: when we work, where we work, how we work. Worse is that these practises were designed decades ago. The pandemic has given us the unique opportunity to question these structures.

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Normalising remote work

The pandemic normalised remote working, and despite the fears of most organisations, there was no demonstrable loss of productivity.

Now, the global workforce wants to retain increased flexibility as societies open up again. Yet, many organisations are resisting this more flexible future. They argue that employees' wellbeing is compromised by remote working, for example, Zoom fatigue.

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  • The "when" of work. The 9-5 workday was formalised for factory workers by Henry Ford in 1926. Most of us don't work in factories. Moreover, the linear day is unsuitable for the remote environment.
  • The "where" of work. The dominance of the office was needed in a time without home internet or laptops. We are long past needing to prove that work can be done away from employer-owned space.
  • The "how" of work. It is an assumption that a meeting is the best way to collaborate. This idea comes from the 1950s. Collaboration can happen asynchronously.

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The outdated, office-centric work designs are making us tired. We are working within systems that are not built for our current environment. Reverting back to the office full time is also not the answer.

We need to stop designing work around location and start designing work around human behaviour. Data shows that employees will work better, stay at their organisation longer and keep healthier.

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The disadvantages of remote working
  • Decreased collaboration: Remote working has led to a 23% decrease in team collaboration, which means less teamwork and development on assigned projects. 
  • Decreased productivity: You can work whenever and wherever, but many times when our minds wander. 
  • Lack of inspiration: When you're surrounded by people all day, every day, there's a lot of inspiration that comes from that environment. 
  • Lack of work/life balance: Remote working can make it very easy to overwork yourself simply because you can't tell when your day at work is finished. 
  • Increased distractions: There are tons of tasks that can steal away attention, such as household chores or errands, that can decrease productivity while working from home.
  • Reduced relationships with coworkers: It can also lead to a lack of relationships with coworkers, which is especially harmful to managers who do not get the opportunity to create stronger bonds within their teams. 
  • Isolation: The lack of human connection can make employees feel isolated and alone. 

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The ‘nice to haves’

It’s widely known the pandemic has made many people re-evaluate their working lives. Employers are well aware, and many are scrambling for new ways to retain employees. One technique for those companies who want to lure their people back is to promise them a more enticing workplace

But people working at home have managed just fine – and remained productive – without free coffee and massages. Many are also less stressed. But the downside of homeworking, for some, has been the isolation, or juggling work around family duties or housemates. So, a tempting office will be one that is an extension of your home, but without the chaos, offering an environment, social atmosphere or technological provision that can’t be found elsewhere.

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Remote work has given us more autonomy

As the pandemic required employees to work remotely, one of the most striking changes was increased worker's autonomy. Many people became used not to have a boss looking over their shoulder or watching their every move.

A more autonomous environment meant employees could control where they sit or how they prioritise tasks. They could intersperse life activities with job activities. But, as the world returns to the offices, employees are expected to give up some of that control.

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