Why The 'New Normal' of Remote Working is Good for Everyone
By Jacob Hawley,Founder and CEO of TLM Partners
As the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the globe during the last year, properly managing the shift to remote working has been a critical goal for most organizations. And understandably so. In mid-January, the New York Times ran a piece titled “They can’t leave the Bay Area fast enough,” highlighting how tech workers have fled the expensive, polluted, crowded city that most of Silicon Valley called home. No longer tethered to a physical office, employees across all roles within their organizations have relocated to areas that better suit their budgets and lifestyles, including beach towns of Florida, the no-income-tax cities of Texas, or the more affordable urban centers of Georgia.
These transitions make perfect sense. In cities like San Francisco or New York, tech talent is highly sought-after. Yet entry-level newcomers to the industry are often faced with tough trade-offs involving paying sky-high rents, living in less desirable neighborhoods or sharing living spaces with multiple co-tenants.
As the pandemic unfolded, many employees and employers alike were required to adapt to the “new normal” of remote working. While some employees claim it’s been a difficult transition, often involving long hours and reduced work-life balance, many employers have also struggled to manage the shift. According to the Financial Times, lockdowns have caused a “creativity crisis” among remote workers due to the reduced interpersonal collaboration compared with working together in an office environment. Additionally, cybercrimes are up 400% as hackers target a less sophisticated approach to IT security among homeworkers.
Early Adopters of Remote Working Have More Easily Weathered the Storm
Among those firms who already support an agile, work-from-home employee base, there has been minimal impact on culture and productivity due to COVID 19.
In fact, firms that had adopted remote working before the pandemic were already benefiting from this decision. They’ve been able to withstand the challenges of the last year without major business interruptions and have access to a global and diverse talent pool that wasn’t accessible to firms that were strictly tied to in-office work culture.
The new, post-pandemic normal will see more firms embrace the idea of remote working. To do so involves a fundamental mindset shift towards believing that creativity and growth can flourish when people aren’t physically located in the same room. It also requires that leaders and employees accept and adopt remote working tools and creatively develop new ways of forming meaningful interpersonal relationships with their colleagues, customers, and industry partners. Tools such as Zoom, Slack, shared creativity suites, and employee reward and recognition platforms all help boost collaboration, productivity, communication, and employee well-being.
A successful shift to managing remote work will require patience, flexibility, and a healthy dose of optimism. The focus should be on the benefits that remote work brings, not what was lost by a shift away from an office. Reduced commutes, more time with families, fewer distractions resulting in more focus and higher quality work, more time to exercise, and lead healthy lifestyles are just a few of the remote workforce benefits.
Broader Economic and Societal Benefits
On a macro level, there are other benefits to be reaped if the shift to remote working becomes a more permanent fixture in business culture.
Even if they receive pay cuts due to relocation or corporate business challenges, tech employees are still likely to be fairly affluent within their new, cheaper home locations. This has the potential to drive new levels of prosperity within cities that have historically seen little economic benefit from the explosive growth of the technology industry. Cities like San Francisco and NYC have been in an unsustainable housing bubble for years now, with the influx of affluent tech talent pushing locals, small businesses, non-profits, and arts organizations out to the suburbs or beyond. This heavily centralized economy could now become more equitable with a broader geographic workforce dispersion.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, a shift to developing remote, globally available workforces will naturally lead to corporations becoming more inclusive. It is well documented that more diverse workplaces foster better business performance, and the opportunities to share ideas, cultures and promote acceptance, tolerance, and equality have never been greater. Again, zooming out, hiring people from a broader talent pool could also help to reduce the wealth divide across gender, race, and socio-economic boundaries.
All of this said, working from home may, of course, not be for everyone based upon their circumstances, including living situations, personalities, or job functions. But once the pandemic is over, hopefully, there will be a better balance between traditional office-based structures and pandemic-forced, fully remote structures that leads to an aggregate benefit for both employees and companies. There are no limits to the upsides if workers and companies can remain flexible, open-minded, and embrace new tools, technologies, strategies, and cultures that support a healthy and thriving remote workforce.
Jacob Hawley is the Founder and CEO of TLM Partners, a unique “Cloud Studio” building new technologies, creating original indie games, and partnering with AAA publishers.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.