With the Coronavirus driving everyone indoors, remote working has become the order of the day. Meetings, projects and plans are all being made and delivered virtually, so much so that even people and industries with little or no experience working remotely now prefer the comfortable, informal feel that it brings. In fact, according to Forbes, as much as 46% of American businesses have implemented remote-work policies as of mid-February 2020. Meetupcall, a UAE-based conference services provider, has reported a 300 per cent increase in global enquiries and a 500 per cent increase in new subscriptions by users in the UAE since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The question being asked now is: will remote working wipe out traditional working by the time the pandemic is over?
The case for remote working
While the thought of getting rid of rush hour traffic is a dream for many, working from home can actually benefit businesses more than they think. A report by Lifesize, a cloud video solutions provider, quotes Global Workplace Analytics, a research-based consulting organization that specializes in workplace strategies, as saying that allowing employees to work from home can reduce absenteeism, tardiness and their associated costs, not to mention day-to-day administrative expenses. In fact, employees are more likely to be loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options. Happier employees mean that turnover rates will be lower and the cost of hiring new talents will come down. Not to mention that with a more motivated workforce, companies end up getting more work done for less money.
Buffer, a global digital marketing company, conducted a survey among 2500 remote workers in 2019, and came to the conclusion that the remote working as trend is here to stay. The survey asked remote workers about the benefits and struggles that come with remote work, what remote work looks like in their individual experience, and the structure of their companies that allowed for remote work in the first place. An overwhelming 99% of the respondents said they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers. And interestingly in addition to respondents wanting to continue to work remotely, they also recommended remote work to others in their lives, from coworkers and friends to family members.
The case against
This is not to say remote working isn’t frowned upon. Those who discourage this trend say that the lack of a formal office setting brings with it problems such as data security, low levels of accountability and greater distractions. However these arguments are fast dissolving, with technology stepping in to allay all fears.
Stepping it up virtually
Today, there are tools and apps that make it easy to deliver and stay on track. Perhaps the biggest boon is Google’s G Suite with its entire range of video conferencing, chat and productivity apps. Asana is another tool that helps employees stay focused while working remotely, with virtual to-do lists and regular reminders of tasks to be done. Not to be forgotten is Zoom, a popular video conferencing app that breaks down geographical barriers and helps people from every corner of the world connect seamlessly. Slack and 15Five are also gaining considerable traction with the digital nomads of today.
How businesses are ramping it up
Big global tech companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Alphabet and Google have all implemented remote working policies following the COVID-19 outbreak, with Twitter making it mandatory for its employees to work from home. Closer home, in the GCC region, efforts are on to implement remote working effectively and on a much larger scale. Earlier this month, Gulf Talent, a job and careers website, conducted a survey among company executives, managers and human resource professionals of the GCC countries to gauge the level of interest in remote working. The study revealed that 35% of Gulf-based businesses could soon be asking employees to work from home. This consists of 6% who have just launched work-from-home plans as a result of the recent outbreak, 5% who have confirmed plans being rolled out soon, 12% who are reviewing the concept, combined with a further 12% who already had remote work arrangements prior to the outbreak.
Source: Gulf Talent
Among the different countries, Bahrain had the highest rate of remote work plans at 38%. This was followed by Qatar, UAE and Kuwait at 37% each. In Saudi Arabia 30% of firms indicated plans for working from home, while businesses in Oman registered the region’s lowest rate of possible remote work at just 18%. Of the many firms shifting to remote work, 45% plan to do so universally for all employees. The remainder are applying it selectively for certain job categories – with Admin and HR being the most common functions to be moved to home, while Engineering and Operations receive the least share of remote jobs.
It is clear that remote working is here to stay. Even post the coronavirus scare, we reckon traditional offices and workspaces might take a backseat in the coming days as the joys of virtual working become more and more apparent.