Work From Home, The New Normal
Millions of people around the globe have lived through lockdowns and many workers have shifted to working from home abruptly while a lot have lost their jobs too. The job market still looks uncertain and we are hedging our bets as to what kind of scars or “the new normal” the pandemic will leave. Even with many national vaccination programs being introduced all over the world, the future of work has already fundamentally changed.
Before the appearance of COVID-19, the majority of people who said their office work could be done from home cited that they seldom or never work remotely in their life. But the unexpected closure of workplaces and offices globally has created a new era of telework for millions of employed professionals and this may be a sign of how the workforce operates in the future. The idea of a ‘remote working environment’ that we once dreamed of in the past is now possible, frequent and permanent.
According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, we saw 71% of people working from home at an all-time high. Most said that they would prefer to work from home if given an option in the United States. In Singapore, more than half of the workforce prefers to work from home according to a survey commissioned by The Straits Times last year. Having that said, the expectations of existing employees and jobseekers of our local workforce are changing and it is vital for employers to take note and meet these aspirations. Employers are encouraged to outline new work arrangements and redesign their work structure to incorporate more flexibility without compromising its organizational culture and productivity. Of course, there is no rush for companies to fulfil all these new expectations, especially for SME (Small Medium Enterprises) with tighter resources in Singapore but employers need to be aware that adaptive gaps still need to be bridged progressively.
Other studies also revealed that those who were unwilling to work remotely at the outset of the pandemic in 2020 for whatever reasons have come to appreciate the flexibility offered. Many don’t want to do it full time if they are asked to return to office. A lot of professionals across the globe have grown quite comfortable with telework and have become accustomed to not seeing their office desk as often.
Meanwhile, there is a clear division of preference in the workforce, those who are ready to return to their workplace when given a choice versus those who wish to continue working from home as much as they prefer. All in all, it boils down to the employers’ willingness and ability to support remote work culture during this period. Well, I don’t foresee the pandemic going away anytime soon and more people will be working remotely into the future. If companies want to keep their employees happy, they will need to work out something appealing to those who are eager to return to office and those who want to work from home.