For most people, working from home has become synonymous with the pandemic. The unprecedented global crisis forced organizations and industries to recalibrate or adapt. Several functions, including the international whistleblowing industry, found themselves redefining goals and objectives within the new normal.
The transition to remote working took place almost overnight thanks to communication technologies in the 21st Century. Research suggests that COVID-19 will continue accelerating trends towards virtual workplaces, especially as organizations take cognizance of the health risks associated with open-plan offices. Some offices have taken it in their stride while others, not so much.
The Case for Remote Working
In spaces where virtually no traces of personal life were visible (or encouraged) before, remote work brings both the personal and professional together. From children making appearances on calls to pets barking in the background, working from home unites everyone in their efforts at juggling responsibilities.
As an extension of this thought, many believe that working remotely has transformed the office into a more humane space. Making the personal visible transforms how people view co-workers and enhances workplace interactions.
The traditional workplace values the idea of how to present oneself. Virtual workplaces almost do away with the idea to focus on what people say and can do instead. Remote work enables workplaces to emphasize talent and expertise over what people wear.
Companies the world over re-evaluated not only their goals but also their leadership approaches. As professional and personal lives fell apart, it was clear that this was not the time for conventional leadership approaches. Fighting the pandemic relied on leaders who were sensitive, attentive, empathetic, and had a higher sensitivity to risk. Some of the best examples are the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Tsai Ing-wen, President of Taiwan.
The Downsides of Virtual Workplaces
Nobody expected to be working remotely for over a year. While productivity and spirits were high when the experiment started, employees have begun to show signs of burnout. For most, substituting the office by working from home adversely affects productivity. Growing evidence suggests an increase in “Zoom” fatigue and burnout.
Remote working has significantly impacted organizational culture as well. Company culture plays a vital role in determining job satisfaction and organizational performance. Without a physical space where everyone can come together, the anchor to workplace culture disappears.
Another downside to the sustained period of remote working is the lack of collaboration. Great ideas usually come through chance interactions in the office, inside labs and research centers, or teamwork across departments. Video calls can only do so much.
Workplaces with a Purpose
Despite the vaccine, most of the world will still live with the virus for the foreseeable future. Most organizations see themselves going back to the office, while others figure out ways to get part of the workforce back or work indefinitely from home.
Getting people back to the office is ideal but cannot be the end-goal. After all, this is a health crisis, unlike anything we have ever seen. As the world continues the struggle, companies need to establish a sense of community and shared goals.
At the core of every organizational decision should be a purposeful plan. To steer companies and employees through a global crisis, leaders need to look at aligning organizational goals to address a gamut of vulnerabilities - lives, livelihoods, social protection coverage, and medical care.