After a year of success, we must NOT turn away from it.
It’s been more than a year now since the pandemic shut down life as we knew it. We learned how to make masks, how to wear a mask (which in my case involves overcoming claustrophobia), how to pick up a mask as readily as we grab our keys, wallet, purse, etc. when heading out the door, how to practice social distancing, and how to smile with our eyes.
Businesses adapted, workers carved out room to work at home, parents learned why teachers should be paid more, and the Mute button is now the single most popular user interface element of any meeting software EVER (for both muting and UN-muting).
I am so grateful for the roll-out of the vaccines. It signals the beginning of a partial return to normalcy, but if you’re paying attention to the experts, we are not out of the woods yet. Go ahead and pout, I get it. But know that we still need to reach “community immunity” (we are not cows, we don’t live in a herd, thank you) before we can even reasonably, wisely, safely think about putting people back in office buildings. Furthermore, until we get the whole world vaccinated, COVID-19 and all its mutations will continue to haunt us.
So after all that we’ve been through and all the complications involved, I am baffled that companies continue to try to push people back to the office before the end of 2021. It’s as if they have not yet understood that the tectonic plates of the working world have shifted under them. Remote work has not only been necessary, it’s been highly successful. Remote workers like it, and overall, they’re not going to want to be pushed back into an office again 5 days a week. As a nod to this new reality, companies are talking about setting up a “hybrid” schedule, but even then, the push is to have workers IN the office more than 50% of the time (i.e., 3 or 4 days a week).
I’m not going to refute here all the reasons for not hurrying back to the office, I do that on my blog and with my corporate clients who have embraced shifting to a remote-friendly or remote-first culture and operations. But I do want to make it absolutely clear that remote work isn’t going away, and that from my primary research, employees are willing to change jobs if their employers don’t accommodate, even embrace, a good measure of remote work for them.
So in case you didn’t know, remote work is now officially “a thing.” Here are just a handful of reasons for Corporate America (and the world, for that matter) to get on board with this shift in our working culture, and support it fully.
1. Remote working is successful. Companies made it work during the pandemic when there was no other choice, and they’ve succeeded. Employees love it and want to continue working from home.
2. Remote working promotes productivity. Remote working reverses the movement towards open plan offices that have proven to be far less productive than quiet, dedicated spaces, whether at home or at co-working locations. Remote working also promotes the scheduling of interactions with others so that time can be blocked out and kept for productivity.
3. Remote working provides flexibility. Remote working acknowledges that employees have a difficult work/life balance (children, elders, care-giving) that has always been there, but is now visible for all to see. Remote working humanizes employees and managers (kids, pets, homes), breaking down barriers and improving communication.
4. Remote working engenders loyalty. Companies that accommodate remote working are rewarded by employees who are appreciative and less likely to go elsewhere. Employees feel more like they’re being treated as trusted, responsible adults, rather than people who need constant supervision.
5. Remote working supports humanity. Everyone’s remote so they’re on equal footing when it comes to scheduling, evaluations, and promotions. Remote working also helps us towards a healthier planet. Fewer cars on the road means reduced carbon emissions.
So relax people, liking remote work is OK! Advocating for it, supporting it, participating in it, these are all good things to do not just for now, but in the future when we actually HAVE a choice about where to work.
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If you’re a business leader making decisions about how to handle a remote workforce during the pandemic and after, visit https://www.remoteleadershipsuccess.com for information and a free guide.