When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, very soon the workplace started looking a lot different than in the past. Remote work had been discussed for a long time before the pandemic, but there was an en masse move to this style of work across the world, often in industries that previously felt remote work would not be feasible for them.
Is remote work widely accepted?
The acceptance is growing, and many CEOs and talent leaders have declared their support for remote work as the future way of work. There is however a dilemma regarding the sustainability of the same, especially given the fact that not everyone supports remote work as a long-term measure. The concern includes whether hybrid or remote work is a long-term measure or a temporary one to be employed while the pandemic continues.
For instance, according to David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, remote work was not feasible for a business like theirs, as it required “an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture” that could not be maintained during remote operations. Remote work would not constitute the new normal but would instead be just a temporary fix to be corrected.
On the other hand, Jeff Clarke, the COO, and Vice-Chairman of Dell felt that work was no longer bound by location for the company. The focus was on what was done and its outcome, not on the place or time. What was important was HR leaders encouraging strong teamwork and a work culture putting outcomes and results above efforts. There are several challenges from COVID-19 and remote work, but the consequent human transformation has given more importance to values such as empathy, flexibility, patience, and trust, which will hold the business in good stead beyond just the current crisis.
The fact is that those supporting remote work now were not in support some time ago, and it took the results to convince them of its feasibility and good sense.
What are the concerns about remote work?
Talent leaders and other members of company leadership are trying to understand what the future workplace will look like – whether it will be fully remote, a hybrid of part-remote and part-onsite work, or a return to full-time in-office work. There is also the question of the differing impacts of these on office culture.
Remote and hybrid work models have helped to keep many businesses running. However, there is no clear verdict on matters such as engagement, productivity, and wellbeing in remote/hybrid models as against in-office work. While some believe there is a better work-life balance, others opine that the blurring work-life boundaries are taking a toll on mental wellbeing.
How have leaders reacted to remote or hybrid work?
A seamless experience and implementation of remote or hybrid work needs a positive mindset from HR leaders and company leadership. With doubts on commitment, efficiency, and productivity, some leaders felt there was a need to monitor employees more closely. Others, though, believe that trusting employees more and being more humane by offering support for collaboration, infrastructure, or wellness is a better way to help employees and the company successfully navigate the challenges of the new work model.
Here are some examples of how companies dealt with the situation.
Take a look at the following brief case studies:
- Microsoft: The CEO of Microsoft expressed his belief in the unviability of an all-remote setup, which would lead to a loss of social capital, apart from concerns on burnout, community building, and mental health.
- Google: The CEO of Alphabet, the parent of Google, said that the company was trying out permanent, flexible work options, where teams work remotely on most days yet gather in office on particular ‘collaboration days’.
- Morgan Stanley: The company was early in adapting to work from home, with leadership support for flexible work arrangements.