Over the last two years, work culture has seen a massive shift as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We can all recall that initial fear of the unknown back in early 2020 as the reported cases slowly approached our homes. The more pessimistic among us may have been reminded of Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel, On The Beach. Just as the people of Shute’s fictional Melbourne waited for nuclear fallout to spread to them, we all waited for COVID-19 to spread to us.
Yet, despite what felt like impending doom, we, just like Shute’s characters, all attempted to continue our lives and adapted to the changing circumstances. One such circumstance many of us had to overcome was the way in which the virus spread. Airborne transmission made confined spaces, where people work in close proximity to one another, a risk to public health. The solution, of course, was transitioning to remote working.
For employees, remote working provided a number of benefits. For example, in 2018 it was estimated that the average commute time in the UK was nearly an hour. This means that employees now working from home have gained that time back to spend however they wish. The same can be said for the money they would have spent commuting. Remote work has also provided employees with a greater sense of autonomy in how they work.
Though having an empty office space may have felt like an unwanted expenditure at the start of the pandemic, the culture shift to remote working has revealed that many of the theorised benefits for employers truly work in practice. Where a business may have once had to cover the overheads, such as electricity, water, and internet usage, remote working has moved this cost over to the employees. Most prospective employees, also, already have access to their own hardware, to access their work, another cost that a business doesn’t need to worry about.
As this pandemic draws nearer to an end, I think we can all agree that our future is looking far brighter than that of Shute’s novel. It is difficult to speculate with any certainty what the future of work will look like. However, as people have grown accustomed to working from home, asking them to return to the office may be a harder transition than that of getting them working from home at the start of the pandemic.
It is very possible that remote working will persist in a post-pandemic world.