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The Effect of the Coronavirus and Working Remotely- Tech Space

By Mishkah Wahab

Published Date: 2020/03

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COVID-19, better known as the Coronavirus – a lethal family of viruses that have caused global panic and economic jitters in more than 40 countries resulting in thousands infected. 

The Wuhan originated disease has caused a ripple effect world-wide pushing for the “work-from-home movement”. (Molla, 2020) Many governments and organizations have no choice but to develop a contingency plan that requires remote working due to the outbreak, supporting the financial lifeline to businesses, homes, and employees. 

We will take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of the world’s largest work-from-home experiment.

There has been an increase in policy changes at organizations around the world, enabling emotional support and physical protection to employees by enforcing a non-traditional work option, well-known companies such as Microsoft, Chevron, Alibaba, Twitter, etc are all doing it.

The unanticipated outbreak of the coronavirus has caused many organisations to mandate employees to work remotely, fearing that it will lead to a rupture in business operations but surprisingly has been carried out successfully.

Why successful, you ask? Well, we’ve got to thank Technology, of course, it plays an imperative role in enabling the work-from-home movement. How? It’s simple- it opens all lines to communicate effectively; emails, instant messaging, databases, Skype, and many social media platforms. 

This does not only prompt companies to accelerate the development of technology structures in the workplace but also enables the measurement of employee performance and productivity to further build a case for technology investment and implement policies that support flexible working conditions. In most companies, the transition to working remotely isn’t entirely a challenge to those who are already accustomed to flexible working conditions. 

Remote working on its own has become a trend and is continuously growing in popularity around the world.

You might ask yourself, what about the working class of people who don’t have adequate online access? Well, modern problems require modern solutions. A strategy that has been expensive yet highly effective consist of organisations along with employees to invest in mobile hot spots, and better data plans. Most organizations also provide stipends to establish home internet access plans or upgrades to existing access, which can especially be highly beneficial to those living in rural areas.

When it comes to the topic of devices, many workers either use their own personal device to work- and if not the case most companies are either buying, leasing, or renting devices for those who do not have their own.

On a more humanistic note, the work-from-home movement during this outbreak has been beneficial in the sense where remote employees who are parents are able to improve their work-life balance and spend time with their families, automatically increasing productivity levels.

Looking at the flip side, the reality is that there are organisations out there who do not view remote working as a viable option during the outbreak of the Coronavirus because it boils down to trust and communication.

There are many instances where organisations do not trust that their employees will achieve their targets from remote working. Communication boundaries also have to be established between employer and employee which can become challenging. In some cases, workers view the remote working as a career limitation with the impression that they will be passed up for a promotion or career advancement.

Another factor that comes into play is poor time management and self-discipline, it’s one thing for a company to set expectations with regard to quality and time and it’s another when it actually comes to living up to these expectations as an individual worker.

Saikat Chatterjee, Senior Director, Advisory at Gartner explains that in a recent webinar snap poll, 91% of attending HR leaders (all in Asia/Pacific) indicated that they have implemented ‘work from home’ arrangements since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, but the biggest challenge comes from the lack of technology infrastructure and lack of comfort with new ways of working.

However, it has been debated and concluded by many that companies who have not implemented technology will definitely be replaced by those who do. How so? There are a number of factors that support the conclusion, namely and most importantly; Location.

According to Chris Herd, the CEO of Firstbase, “A physical office means you can hire the best person you can afford in a 30-mile radius, disqualifying you from 99.9% of the world’s talent.” Derived from his LinkedIn article on remote working.

Secondly, remote working has become a condition of employment in the 21st century worldwide, organizations that prohibit this won’t attract the real talent pool that is required. Remote working overall offers flexibility in the sense where individuals can function when most productive.

The Coronavirus had brought on this global movement as an opportunity for many businesses to align with technology and the future of appropriate working conditions.

Mishkah Wahab, Recruitment Partner – Tech, GRM.

GRM’s tech recruitment solution aims to bring a global solution to your skills need. Our network is global, and we promote the idea of project-based, remote working for all your tech challenges.

Contact me on m.wahab@grmsearch.com to discuss.