Is Remote Working Overhyped, or Is It The New Normal?

During this unprecedented health crisis, remote work is necessary to allow organizations to survive. As someone working in a company remotely, I have encountered the remote work experience’s different aspects. This inevitable transition to the virtual workplace can be seen as either a blessing or a curse. It all depends on your perspective. We should first evaluate remote work. 

So, is remote working over-hyped, or is it the new normal? In reality, we have to accept that remote work is the new normal. But, it’s not always ideal. The pandemic has catalyzed the inevitable shift towards remote work. Some are skeptical and think of remote work because of the misconceptions and myths surrounding the idea. If remote work is planned right, the pros outweigh the cons for most organizations. It still depends on your organization and strategy.

It doesn’t even have to be purely off-site. It’s because various workplace policies and guidelines could be implemented. Whether regular or intermittent, synchronous or asynchronous, low or high bandwidth requirement, there are proper strategies apt for every circumstance. While some people struggle with remote work and may think it’s over-hyped, there is hope for optimizing it. This is contingent on our preferences and organizational goals. We have written a detailed article, “Why is Remote Work Good for your Company?Opens in a new tab.” which talks about industries aided by remote work.

This article will explore the true definition of remote work and clear up common misconceptions of it. We will evaluate whether it is essential by comparing its respective advantages and disadvantages. Finally, we’ll discuss how to optimize remote work for your organization through unique insights and effective strategies.

What Remote Work Is And Isn’t

Throughout history, the office has been an integral part of everyday life. Employment meant that the office would be our second home. There we’d see our co-workers during the majority of the day. From traditional cubicles to open and dynamic stations, the office evolved to accommodate the trends in business. It changes according to the needs of the employees. We have written an article that details the history of offices entitled, “What’s The Purpose Of An Office And When Should A Company Get One?” Thought to breed productivity, the idea of a dedicated office was a collectively accepted concept since then.

Rapid advancements in technology paved the way for the internet, real-time messaging, video calls, productivity software, and collaborative innovation. Suddenly, working in an office didn’t seem necessary as it had been before. The shift towards getting your work done off-site began, and telecommuting has been a standard arrangement for many businesses and industries.

There is plenty of skepticism revolving around remote work. The COVID-19 pandemic forced remote work to become the norm. With a health crisis ongoing, the majority of businesses had to continue their operations virtually. As a result, the pandemic became the catalyst for the future remote work arrangements we knew was coming.

Remote work is a modern concept. It is a common buzzword we will encounter more often. We substitute remote work with work-from-home. This is a misconception. Remote work is much more than working-from-home.

Remote work can occur anywhere as long as it is off-site. It can be in:

  • Your home
  • A coffee shop
  • A co-working space
  • The library

Neil UsherOpens in a new tab. explained remote work as, “When you’re not ‘in the office’ but still working. It all depends on where the office is. This is because if it’s a satellite office – dedicated or a co-work space – it may be some distance from the HQ. It is regarded as ‘remote’. So we might think of remote as meaning not in any of the organization’s offices at all. During the last nine months we’ve heard all the arguments many are against this. A whole range looks at time spent partially remote and partially at base. Yet, the genie that’s not going back in the bottle is this. For the first time in human history we have proven we can work effectively together for prolonged periods while not in the same physical space. Far from hype, it qualifies as a seismic evolution. And unlike all the other such changes, we’ve been part of it. That’s quite something.”

Besides misunderstanding the concept, there is a false dichotomy. It purports that work is either fully remote or entirely on-site. Recent times have proven that this is not the case. Remote work can become a tool for organizations to both empower employees and divide labor efficiently.

Ryan AndersonOpens in a new tab., VP of Global Research & Insights at Herman Miller, puts it as, “No, it’s not overhyped, but it is misunderstood. The assumption that work is only remote, that remote workers spend all of their time working from home and not from the office or other locations, is unrealistic and a byproduct of the context of 2020. Remote working can be a valuable part of a larger organizational move towards supporting distributed work and empowering people to work from wherever is best for them on a given day.”

Another common myth is that it makes a person less productive. This isn’t always the case. Studies have shown that it could do just the opposite. We’ll get to that topic later. Overall, remote work is a more profound concept than we once thought it was. Whether you are an employer or an employee, you can design and optimize your remote work experience to suit your needs and circumstances. Just like you would your office desk.

Benefits of Remote Work

Remote work can easily be seen as a massive plus by young, active, tech-savvy, time-conscious millennials. The flexibility of managing your own time, personalizing your workspace, less hassle from commuting, and overall freedom seems to be a paradise for these employees. On the other hand, employers can also take advantage of the decreased business expenses and lesser constraints. When it comes to remote work, the pros are undeniable. To analyze whether this could be the new normal, let us take a look at some of the benefits remote work brings to organizations as a whole:

Better work-life balance

We all despise being tied down to our jobs to some degree. We don’t like being told what to do at every hour of the day. We dislike how being micromanaged can cause us to feel trapped. With remote work, employees have more freedom with their schedules and work at their own pace. Provided that they have quality output and get the job done, employees can attend to other personal aspects of their life that typically get neglected with a hectic work schedule.

Less commute time is a significant factor. It saves you time, so you can spend it on things that matter most to you. There is great joy in knowing that you can sleep in a little later, cook breakfast for your family, or get a good workout. You don’t have to battle through the rush hour to get to work on time. Without a stressful daily commute, you improve your mental health and physical health in the long-term.

Strict protocols have to be implemented when it comes to remote work lest you fall into the trap of always working and blurring the boundaries between the office and your home. In the article “Workplace Flexibility and Work-Life BalanceOpens in a new tab.,” we compiled several rules you can implement to make sure your remote work lets you live life fully instead of draining the life out of you.

Improves employee satisfaction and retention

Employees are essential for an organization to function effectively. Even more so, when they have been in your company for a long time and have been accustomed to the demands of customers, clients, and employer expectations.

Granting them flexibility through the option of remote work gives them plenty of alternatives. This brings a lot of satisfaction. StudiesOpens in a new tab. show that a substantial amount of employees would even take a salary cut in exchange for more flexible work schedules. Being able to work remotely is a privilege that employees hold dear. If employees feel valued, they will also value their output more. They will consequently go the extra mile for the organization.

Increases productivity

It’s time to dispel the myth that working off-site automatically leads to decreased productivity. Many people wrongly assume that just because telecommuters don’t work inside the office, they spend most of their day lying in bed and slacking around. A survey has shown that although telecommuters take frequent breaks, they dedicate an increased amount of time to their work. This may be related to the autonomy remote workers enjoy when it comes to their day and how they can cater their schedule to work during the time they are genuinely most productive. Check out an article we wrote that answers the question, “Why Remote Work Makes Teams Better?Opens in a new tab..” You’d be surprised that the statistics can go as high as 85% increased productivity for remote workers than those who work on-site.

Saves money

If you’re an employer, you’d know just how much office overhead, on-site expenditures, and even travel budgets account for a considerable chunk of your overall business expenses. Based on the estimates of workplace analyticsOpens in a new tab., annual savings of up to $10,000 can be saved for every employee working remotely. This is so even at least 50% of the time.

Besides savings for the company, workers that telecommute can save money by spending less on transportation, food, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Aids inclusivity and diversity

Being able to rid the organization of a need to be in one place broadens job candidates and talents. Due to the elimination of geographical restrictions as a factor in an employee’s performance, remote work paves the way for diverse teams and more opportunities. The widening of possible applicants’ net allows rigorous standards regarding work ethic, technical skills, and company fit. The flexibility that a virtual workplace offers makes the organization more inclusive. This is especially so to marginalized sectors such as persons-with-disabilities (PWDs) and those living in rural communities.

Sustainable & environment-friendly

Climate change and the recent health crisis serve as a lesson. They tell us that we have to take care of our environment. It can affect us in ways we can’t imagine. Besides being a way to prevent the spread of coronavirus, remote work lessens commuting, and transportation. In turn, it increases air quality while decreasing their carbon footprint.

Not convinced that remote working is the new normal? Here are 5 Reasons to Explore a WFH Policy for Your OrganizationOpens in a new tab..

1. Disadvantages of Remote Work

Although tremendous benefits stem from telecommuting, there are potential downsides to having a remote work arrangement for your organization.

2. Decreased employee visibility

Organizations believe that monitoring employees leads to increased productivity. Indeed, whenever employees aren’t seen by management or their team, it may be challenging to foster colleagues’ social cohesion. It will be challenging to receive new management opportunities. In the employer’s perspective, trust or the lack thereof can be an issue. This is if an employee is left to their own devices. While all these may be true, it’s not always the case. Trust, camaraderie, and accountability can be cultivated through specific activities and strategies.

3. Difficulty unplugging

If done correctly, remote work frees up a lot of time to focus on other aspects of an employee’s life. If done wrong, remote work is a recipe for disaster. Without proper boundary-setting, time management, and prioritization, the line between work and personal life can become blurred. This causes a ton of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and burnout. Having your own internal set of rules could help avoid becoming a slave who is frequently on-call. This is because the same results in even less time for yourself than you would have if you worked on-site.

4. Increased distractions

Undoubtedly, being at home without the pressure of a lingering boss could tempt you to fall prey to more fun activities. It may intrigue you to succumb to the demands of being at home. On the other hand, being at the office with all the gossip, chatter, and noise is a different kind of distraction. They could equally be as detrimental to your work. As such, this “disadvantage” is more of a challenge than a real threat. The key to eliminating distractions is practicing self-discipline and conducting proper workspace planning.

5. Less organizational cohesiveness

An obvious problem with remote work is the utter lack of face-to-face time. This can lead to weaker co-worker relationships & feelings of isolation and loneliness. In terms of work and productivity, having no physical interactions can hinder the trust-building and necessary collaboration between teams. As to well-being, social isolation and depression are inadequate for physical health. They may increase mortality risk.

The potential disadvantages mentioned above could explain why organizations remain skeptical of remote work. Although the pandemic has forced their hand into trying it out, they still think it’s an over-hyped concept. These disadvantages can be perceived as mere challenges the company has to overcome. They aren’t set in stone. With proper expectation setting, task prioritization, and strict implementation of protocols, remote work may just become your organization’s new normal.

The Verdict

Before we decide whether remote work is over-hyped or the new normal, let us look at some opinions from workspace experts and business leaders.

Is remote working overhyped? For Andrew MawsonOpens in a new tab., Founder of Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), it is popular and a borderline fad. But if applied correctly, it can be valuable to businesses. He says, “Yes because the media is obsessed and needs something to write about. However the world is now experiencing the realities of working remotely – the opportunities and challenges – so people and leaders are now more informed and able to make better choices.”

For Chris HerdOpens in a new tab., Founder and CEO of FirstbaseOpens in a new tab., remote work is over-hyped in the general sense of the pandemic. But it is underrated when it comes to workspaces. He says, “Remote working during a global pandemic is massively overhyped. Home schooling your children is very difficult, not being able to work from a coffee shop, see friends and family or do hobbies that you would typically do otherwise is extremely difficult. But we need to remember, remote working is not work from home. Remote working is having the ability to work from anywhere and that is massively underrated. The ability to work anywhere when you’re your most productive.”

For the average employee, remote work is a hit or miss arrangement. There are advantages to working remotely. But some challenges have to be addressed to make it useful. For employers, assessing the risk-reward ratio is crucial to the organization’s success. In the end, it is subject to one’s perspective. You may wonder whether the perceived benefits outweigh the potential downsides.

As the tipping point of remote work, the health crisis will surely change the way we view remote work. This is true even long after the virus is gone. We can expect companies to gravitate towards utilizing remote work and collaborative technology as tools in their future post-pandemic goals. So is remote working over-hyped, or is it the new normal? Our answer is: It isn’t over-hyped. It is the new normal. We have to optimize it for it to become a useful tool for our organizations.

Related Questions

Which remote work strategy best suits my organization?

Your remote work strategy rests on what your field is. It depends on other factors such as company age, resources, employees, etc. A good indicator of picking a remote work strategy is assessing your industry and your competitors. Increased telecommuters are to be expected in the Information Technology field. At the same time, remote work isn’t feasible for the Construction industry.

How can I adapt to remote work?

Adjusting to remote work takes a lot of planning and management of time, space, and mindset. We wrote A Practical Guide To Transitioning To Remote WorkOpens in a new tab. to help individuals ease remote work transition.

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