The Covid-19 Pandemic has changed the trajectory of the economical world. As we saw offices and businesses shut down or shifted towards remote working environments. While it was a bittersweet experience with work during the pandemic, working in our own homes and at the same time feeling burnt out because of the “urgent requests” that comes in 24/7, we knew for certain that the pandemic would come to an end eventually. With Malaysia entering into the endemic stage, how will this affect remote working as an entirety for a company?
According to recent research, it is said that 56% working professionals in Malaysia prefer to continue working remotely from home at least 3 days or more a week. This is due to the advancement of technology curated from the pandemic that made remote working possible, virtual meetings played a huge role for remote working and has proven to be a very efficient alternative for companies. Another reason being that most working professionals have invested quite a sum of money to build their workspace at home which they have adapted fully to remote working. Also, productivity has been boosted by at least 5.3% mainly due to the reduced commuting time needed to travel to the office.
Although statistics show that working professionals are leaning towards remote working or hybrid workforce with valid reasons of increased productivity and the “obsolete” state of being physically present at work, it doesn’t ignore the fact that remote working will never be the same as working in an office, here are some irreplaceable factors that being in an office environment that remote working can never provide;
Let’s be honest, nobody likes an empty office, especially employers who pay rent or own the space. Being in an office will significantly boost staff’s focus where distractions are minimised as the office provides a mentally preparedness for a staff to work. At the comfort of our homes, we might be disciplined enough to block out the distractions, but it doesn’t rule out that distractions are there in the first place. For interns or fresh graduates, learning experience on the job is totally different compared to online as they are able to observe more experienced colleagues deal with certain situations or even just asking them for advice and ideas. This is important for any young growing professional’s career.
One of the biggest struggles in remote working during the pandemic is striking the balance between work and life. During the start of remote working, there were complaints about how people had to work overtime or just be on standby when any urgent requests came in even after work hours given that everyone is working from home. For people with children, it was often a distraction when the children were home knowing that they rely on their parents for many things. Vice-versa, a distraction from work when it was clearly a time for family.
Being physically present at work with colleagues is a natural facilitator of collaboration. Although with online technologies allowing virtual communication, it will never replace working together in person. A shared space allows for colleagues to experience each other’s demeanour, which is essential for effective communication. For example, high pressure situations require the whole team to focus on producing their best work, a team member need only look around the office and assess the vibe to understand what is required of them at that moment, this also contributes to the accountability of colleagues in the workplace. Competency levels will be raised as colleagues are less likely to slack off their responsibilities when they are surrounded by peers who are diligently focused on their work.
Having a physical office is an embodiment of a company. Through a physical workplace a company can communicate its identity, ethos and values clearly to anyone, from stakeholders, clients, potential new talents and current employees. To physically experience a brand is much more valuable than having just an online presence, it sets the public perception of how successful the company is from the moment they step into the office, this can also impact clients’ confidence in the brand and help retain talents.
The working experience in the office on a daily basis can have a significant impact on employee retention and company’s reputation. Whether it’s team building activities like Bowling Thursday or Yoga Monday, or lunch traditions like Taco Tuesday or Pizza Friday. The company culture is vital in providing support and wellbeing between colleagues. Without a physical office where interactions are genuine, it is harder to set a culture that gives the employees a sense of belonging in the workplace.
It's important to give and receive support from the workplace as people spend almost 60% of their time doing work, earning a living for themselves and their families. Remote work presents a danger of isolation for a colleague as communicating through text with the HR representative can be intimidating as compared to grabbing a coffee with their HR representative and having genuine face-to-face interactions about the issues that they are facing and would want to address.