With the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, an increasing number of jobs are being done remotely — at least for now. Obviously, many jobs require a physical presence, but for jobs where duties can be carried out with nothing more than a computer and, perhaps, a phone, it makes sense to keep people out of harm’s way. This ensures people can continue to be productive while practicing social isolation.
However, it is important that we ensure this pattern continues, even after the threat of the pandemic has subsided. As someone who has only worked fully remote jobs for well over four years, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, even when not considering the threat of coronavirus — though remote work does help prevent the spread of all illnesses, of which there is always a threat.
The challenges it creates are mostly related to communication and can be easo;u overcome with good habits and practices around videoconferences, information sharing, and progress tracking. Fortunately, there are many great tools that make these problems easy to solve, many of which (like Slack, JIRA, Asana, or Zoom) are already used regularly by non-remote workers.
Perhaps the most profound benefit is how much employee stress is reduced. Unburdened by time-sucks like commutes and hauling personal belongings to and from an office, remote workers have extra time freed up and are more able to jump into the day of work ahead of them without slightly exhausting them before they even begin the productive part of their day.
The lack of a commute is also good for more than just employees’ mental well-being. The simple act of commuting to and from work generates enormous amounts of carbon emissions, worsening climate change. Traffic problems tend to be worse in “rush hour” periods, which can be minimized the more people are telecommuting. Cities with substantially cleaner air and less congested streets benefit everyone living in them, even those with jobs that require a physical presence.
Offices are often distracting, uncomfortable environments, especially with the proliferation of open-office floor plans in recent years. A well-equipped home office can be tailored to an employee’s unique needs and tastes and is free from the chatter and clatter of environments full of numerous people. Such spaces are also a major expense for employers, who can save a lot of money by providing space for fewer — or even no — employees.
If you want to build the best team possible, it also necessitates hiring candidates from anywhere, not just specific location(s). Though some people can be enticed to move through relocation expense payments, a lot of talented people are resistant to uprooting their life for a job. Moving takes an enormous toll on families and disrupts valuable connections people have outside work in their lives.
For these reasons, we should view working remotely as a permanent and vital part of improving people’s professional lives. Though the unique hazards of the novel coronavirus outbreak forced many company’s hands, it should be a learning experience for these industries both about what is possible and the benefits it brings. Though nothing can make up for the nightmare of loss of life, partial shutdown of society, and intense stress we are undergoing, we should at least try to salvage beneficial lessons this crisis and apply them permanently going forward.