How Working Remotely Will Change More Than Work

'The Future of Work' - Exploring how Covid-19 is transforming how, where and why we work.

Monday morning used to be pretty hectic.

From waking up early to make a cup of coffee and to rush for work, we did all of these in a real fast hurry.

Things are a bit different now. While those of us lucky to be working are now doing so from a spare bedroom or a kitchen table, the Coronavirus has forced a sudden pivot to working away from the office.

While the circumstances are unwelcome, there are some benefits to this style of working. Now we have a more content workforce, a more motivated workforce, and also a more productive and efficient workforce as well. So when the Coronavirus is behind us, will our workday ever be the same again? That’s an important question.

We spend a lot of our time traveling to work and for most, the commute is getting longer all over the world. Globally, two fifths of professionals consider the commute to be the worst part of their day. Commuting has been found to be a major cause for stress that impacts on our physiological health and as well, wellbeing.

The total working day gets longer, one gets less time at home also less exercises. When someone have long commutes then that person cooks less healthy food. Before the pandemic, approximately 25 million U.S. workers spent more than 90 minutes getting to and from their jobs every day. In South Korea, one in four workers has a journey that long.

But research claims our commute can also provide us with a means to separate our personal and professional lives. In a world of 10-second bed-to-laptop commutes, that’s a chance for some ‘me time’. But while journey times were already generally on the up, more of people were actually starting to commute less. It’s due to ‘Flexible working’. Increasingly most people have seen people remote working from lots of different locations.

There has been a reluctance to encourage flexible working, perhaps because managers see it as a loss of control, it can be quite difficult to manage people who you don’t necessarily see on a day-to-day basis. There might be concerns around efficiency or productivity.

What researchers have found is that productivity can actually improve as a result of flexible working. There isn’t necessarily any impact upon the business, if it’s managed effectively. There’s quite a lot of benefits. There is an opportunity for workers to have more autonomy over their scheduling, over when they work and where they work.

When people have that degree of autonomy, it does lead to a workforce that is happier.

A two-year Stanford study of 1,000 employees at one company found that working from a home office resulted in a 13% increase in productivity and 50% of them were less likely to quit. Despite this, half of them still wanted to go back to the office nine months later, even though their average commute was 40 minutes each way.

Another survey conducted by Bain and Company on its own employees, found that productivity increased for some due no commute and an ability to focus better at home, but also decreased for others due to a lack of work mindset and a dedicated workspace.

Our changing relationship with work could affect where we live, too. It could accelerate a move to what’s known in urban planning theory as the ‘polycentric city’. Polycentric city would be a place where you can work, you can live, you can recreate, you can have your social life, your family in a more local and distributed way.

In cities like Paris, it’s known as the 15-minute city, where daily necessities are within a 15-minute reach on foot or by bike. One can reduce transit times, GHG emissions and also one can provide more equitable, more sustainable access to services by this more distributed city model. Companies will need to support workers in that externality and it could take many forms.

Does everyone wanna work from home? No, some people like going to a place, commuting. In soon, we are going to see a whole range of new types of work as people have gained confidence in the efficiency of work from home during this time.

Since the virus outbreak, there are many companies are getting positive results. For example, serviced office brand Regus has already seen a surge of more than 40% in activity in New York City commuter hub southern Connecticut.

In the U.K., house builders are seeing developments outside of London driven by a change in home office working. While experiences and jobs vary all over the world, many workers have come to expect change. More than 90% of people in a recent survey said they wouldn’t return to the office full time after COVID. There are reasons for employers to embrace the change too.

Twitter and Facebook have said the switch could become permanent for large parts of their workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic has sent shock waves through the world of work. Having an on-off relationship with the office could make us happier and more productive, while also helping the environment and making our cities more livable.


Editor of On a mission to build a world leading Scottish digital nation.

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