Image by chenspec from Pixabay
By PHOEBE RUGURU
Paid corporate work in the past decades has had many faces. At some point it was something that only men did, at another, it was done wearing suit and tie or shoulder padded jackets. At another point, one had to tap in and out at the start and end of day, in others, work was more than 8 hours in a 24-hour economy. The face of what paid work looks like has evolved in multiple ways for multiple reasons. But very little has had the same universal impact as the global pandemic of Covid-19.
The lockdowns and the tight regulations limiting movement to and from home, as well as domestic and international travel have meant that many workers and companies have had to adapt to the new conditions whilst still scrambling to keep their companies alive and their workers productive.
And some of these adaptation mechanisms have not only changed the face of work today but probably for years to come. One of the fundamental changes is Remote Working. For years, very few corporates imagined that their workers would be efficient and productive if they weren’t doing it from their desktop cubicle, and if they couldn’t physically see them. But with working regulations changed, they have had no choice but to surrender their control and wait to see the results of remote working.
For many businesses, this is not something that would come without its fear or doubts. One of the biggest fears for corporates is the lack of control and visual aesthetic of seeing their workers physically at work. Many business owners or managers have mutely expressed doubt that perhaps their workers would not be able to continue working outside of supervised office conditions. And who can blame them? For a long time, many managers have felt that helicopter managing is the only way to ensure that performance is ensured.
After all, are you really working if you are not seen working? This expectation that the amount of time spend by the desk equates to the depth of productivity and performance that is optimum has been challenged by the levels of productivity that workers feel they have when they are left to allocate time and resources for their own working systems, a freedom that has come with working from home.
In a research study in China, it was found that home working improved productivity by 20 percent. In other cases, several workers have claimed that working away from the glaring eye of Human Resources or their boss a few desks away, has given them the relaxation that fuels them to work without pressure which fundamentally improves focus and diverts anxiety.
Many workers have also cited that one of the benefits of working from home is being to work in an environment that feels comfortable for their own personal and unique needs. Not all corporate spaces are functional for productivity, even if they are expected to be. Some spaces are open, designed for more extraverted personalities who would enjoy the vibrancy of different people engaging through open spaces. Such spaces, for example, do not always create the ideal space for introverts who perhaps don’t thrive from verbal interactions with co-workers, and for whom this might even be distracting. In other spaces, there lacks openness and transparency which can make some people feel alienated and detached from others and consequently, to their work.
With workers performing their tasks at home, there remains a task for the corporate structure in maintaining the work community and collaboration between workers, something supposed to ensure that the company is still united, wherever it is. Some companies have done this with Zoom hangouts for either book clubs or quizzes from home, enabling people to still connect, albeit be virtually.
To some company’s surprise, especially smaller businesses, allowing workers to work from home has financially enabled them to reduce spending on office rent spaces, and machines without anyone to occupy or use them, further enabling managers to focus on maintaining their workers.
As covid regulations continue to relax, due to the increase in vaccinations, most companies are looking to either continue with remote working or return to the office. Interestingly, too, some want to do both in what is called the Hybrid model, allowing flexibility for workers to perform both working from home and remotely.
This perhaps opens more opportunities for proper work conditions as in a study from earlier in the year stated that 70% of workers have expressed that while working from home is good, it is better when they are equipped with the choice of when those days would be.
The pandemic has at the very least presented questions that challenge the meaning of productivity, the importance of the office, and the wellbeing of workers, whether at home or abroad. Without a doubt, for many corporates and workers, where and how they work matters more than ever, as covid-19 changed more than the technology, more than the offices, it has also fundamentally changed how we work, and where.