A year can be measured in 525,600 minutes, according to the song “Seasons of Love” from the hit musical Rent. But after more than a year since the global pandemic pushed employees out of the offices and into their homes, we ask the following questions. Are businesses in Baltimore still singing remote work’s praises, or are they hoping to shift to a different tune in the coming season? Will Baltimoreans continue to work from home, or will they be left counting down the minutes until everyone goes back to the office?
Let’s rewind and examine how remote work has transformed business practices. Not surprisingly, technology continues to play a big part in the new normal of work.
Remote work: What do we know so far?
Several big companies have conducted studies on the effects of working remotely for a year. Here are some significant findings:
- The pros and cons of remote meetings
Many people felt that video conferencing apps such as Zoom or Google Meet allowed for more inclusive meetings since it gave all participants a level playing field. Suddenly, it was easy to loop in people from other parts of the country or even overseas.
But people also quickly realized that the ones who were less likely to speak up during physical meetings were also less likely to chime in online. The limitations of remote meetings began to show: because people could not pick up physical cues through body language, it became more difficult to gauge emotions. These affected how people managed disagreements, discussions, and decision-making.
- Experience affects productivity
It turns out that familiarity breeds productivity. Studies show that employees who had prior remote work experience were able to retain their productivity during the pandemic lockdown. The ones with little to no experience with remote work experienced a decrease in productivity. Other factors that affected productivity were a shorter tenure at the company and a lack of collaborations and meetings before the pandemic.
- Workspace matters
Because the shift to remote work was so sudden, many employees had very little time to prepare an adequate space at home. Experts have recommended that people avoid making their sleeping/rest place their workspace, too. But everyone’s home situation is different. Studies show that two main factors that affect productivity are the size and layout of the workspace as well as the social interactions that happen within that space.
- Onboarding and culture
Because of the pandemic, even onboarding is done remotely. This means newly hired employees have a harder time embracing the company culture and values because they are isolated from the rest of their team members. For a team culture to thrive, it’s important for the members to bond — a task that’s taken for granted during pre-pandemic days when people worked in the same space every day.
- Burnout blues
In a study last year, researchers noted a 42% increase in the number of employees who say they’re experiencing burnout. Worse, their managers feel the brunt of the responsibility for their staff’s burnout. But the managers are also stressed themselves. People want to be assured that their companies value employee care and their employees’ mental health.
Where do we go from here?
In surveys with different companies and experts on how business will evolve in the future, these were the significant findings:
- Goodbye 9 to 5
The days of working 9 to 5 every Monday to Friday at the office may become an option and not the norm as more employees prefer more remote work opportunities. This change will force companies to adopt more remote-friendly policies, like paying for remote workers’ internet costs. It will also affect how companies will spend for office equipment versus mobile equipment for remote working.
- The rise of remote work software
The demand for mobile work tools, video conferencing, and even virtual reality conferencing will increase and may even become the preferred mode of communication. Artificial intelligence will also be used to help manage remote workers.
- Employee care and mental health
While many employees want more options to work remotely, other employees still see the value of reporting in the office. They cite mental health concerns as the reason for returning to the office. They feel the need to bond with people and work together. This may also help address the difficulties of conducting virtual meetings, establishing the office culture, and improving collaboration between co-workers.
- Revisiting office spaces
Because not everyone will be reporting to the office at the same time every day, companies can now scale down their office space. This will allow businesses to save on rent.
For many companies in the Baltimore, Annapolis, and Towson areas, shifting to a combination of remote and office work is music to their ears. It would be smart to make sure your business stays in tune with business and tech trends. Outwit your competition by getting top-notch computer support, network services, and IT consulting from our experts at NetQuest. We’ll make sure your business can face the challenges and succeed in the next 525,600 minutes — and henceforth. And your clients will be singing you praises.