There’s a widespread feeling that remote work is now mainstream. An assumption that we will never go back to the old ways of working.
If that’s true, it’s been a long time coming. For years experts and pundits have predicted many more people will work from home in the future.
There’s evidence that the number of people working from home, at least for some of the time, was already rising before the Covid–19 pandemic accelerated the trend.
Remote work’s slow, steady rise
The rise has been slow, but steady.
It exploded when New Zealand and most of the world went into lockdown. Anyone who’s work could be done remotely logged on from home. Data volumes on broadband networks soared and hitherto esoteric applications like Zoom became part of everyday life for white collar workers.
For some home will be cemented in as their main future workplace. It’s worth remembering this only applies to certain types of work, a surgeon can’t operate via Zoom, nor can a supermarket shelf stacker.
The National Business Review closed down its editorial office, apparently for ever. The paper gave staff an allowance to cover home working costs.
Remote work is not too lonely and alienating for journalists. The job often involves attending functions or meeting people for interviews or information gathering.1 It could be hard going for some.
Yet, hundreds of companies are working through similar plans.
One key thing that changed with the early 2020 lockdown was that managers and individuals alike realised that mass remote working is possible and practical. Until now there was scepticism, especially among more anally-retentive managers.
There are still questions over its desirability in every case. Some voices say remote working is more productive. Other managers hate the idea of not being able to look out from the corner suite to see rows of heads down with people beavering away.
For what it’s worth, my experience over the years is that it can be more productive at times, but work quickly eats in to the rest of your life. I certainly do more than a forty hour week and can count the number of non-working weekends over the last 15 years on my fingertips.
Either way, my gut tells me that while we are going to see more home or remote working than before lockdown, there will also be a drift back to the office.
Mix and match remote work
Maybe people will work from home two or three days a week and commute on the other days. Or it could be people will work one way when they need to focus on their own, and another way when close collaboration is needed.
It’s not all about me, but let’s go back to my experience in this department. I find if I only work from home, my productivity is OK, but not great.
Likewise, if I only work from an office, it’s not great either. But if I mix things up, productivity shoots up. If I have the freedom to work from home as and when the mood or my energy levels dictate, I get the best result of all.
Your experience might be different. It certainly will if you have a young family or if there’s not a lot of space at home. In those cases getting out is wise. This goes some way to explain the popularity of co-working spaces.
Which brings me to the other key point. It’s likely that many future workplaces will look and feel a lot more like co-working spaces.
- Well, that’s my experience and I’ve been working this way for almost 15 years now and sporadically for periods before this one. ↩︎