Remote work: The pros and cons

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos (The Freeman) - October 31, 2020 - 12:00am

Admittedly, in a technology-driven world, we all thought that hard situations will be made light. That every task perceived to be difficult or complicated will be made a lot easier and handily sorted out. 

It seemed, that in everything, we are so advanced. One thing though that we didn’t expect is the recent pandemic. A pandemic of this magnitude. A kind of pandemic that renders medical-science so much behind. So much so that it forcibly changed the way we live and make a living. 

To some extent though, this is a pandemic that hastened the execution of some planned approaches. Approaches that were either driven by new technologies or just a direct recognition of the needs of certain sectors in the society. 

True enough, countries like the United States of America (USA) are encouraging employers to go for telework or remote work. Though this work arrangement is no longer new in the USA and Europe, it became more pronounced due to the onslaught of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). 

For instance, even before COVID-19 wreaked havoc, major tech companies in the USA have already considered permanent shifts to virtual workplaces. The decision to shift though was simply hastened by the pandemic.

For one, as early as March this year, Twitter said, it would let its employees work from home permanently.Two days after, Facebook followed suit and announced that “half of its workforce would go virtual over the next decade.” The same is true with Shopify, Dropbox and Microsoft. Apparently, these are all big tech companies. 

Notably, however, the only big tech company that never entertained the idea of telework was Netflix. In fact, it announced recently that its employees will go back to work “twelve hours after a vaccine is approved.”Clearly though, despite Netflix decision to go traditional,tech companies, in general,are downright comfortable with this set-up.

In us, our government is also encouraging telework. To recall, the Telecommuting Act (Republic Act 11165) was enacted way before COVID-19 struck globally. Well, it is not because our health scientists or experts and our lawmakers are good at predicting pandemics. Neither are the secretary and his undersecretaries of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) anticipated it too. It was passed simply because our working mothers (especially the single moms) are asking for it and they truly deserve it. To some extent, the traffic situation in the metropolis also added impetus to the passing of such law.

Generally, this development will have a lasting and positive impact in the workplace (and the companies’ bottomline and in workers’ and their families’ well-being. For one, in allowing employees to work remotely, office congestion will be avoided. Therefore, should there be another wave of pandemic in the future, physical distancing isn’t impossible. 

Moreover, with a considerable reduction in the number of employees in the workplace, the rented office space can be reduced significantly, thus, improving the companies’ bottomline.  More importantly, the employers (whether a tech-company or heavily using technology) can conveniently recruit the best talents anywhere in the country.

Likewise, the employees shall reap some benefits from this set-up. With so much autonomy and flexibility (with their laptops and gadgets in tow), they can live and work anywhere. They can even save on rentand transportation cost (and cost of living in general), breath cleaner air and enjoy the serenity of their workplaces if they retreat to the countryside.

There are several downsides though as more companies embrace telework or remote work. As the employees’ immediate environment aren’t within the employers’ control, outputs and confidentiality of information will be a big concern. For employees (especially, the married ones with kids), on the other hand, separating work from home life will be a daily struggle. For single employees (without spouses and kids and are living alone), loneliness will be a daily challenge. 

Moreover, younger workers will also miss the benefits of working side by side (physically) with more experienced officemates for guidance. They shall also lose the prospects to network with superiors and mentors. All of which are all career-boosting opportunities.

Also, though not part of the employer-employee relationship, landlords or owners of office spaces, apartments and lodging houses in the metropolis might also financially struggle asthey will be left with empty units or rooms as employees retreat to the countryside.

Despite all these concerns, however, the advantages of telework or remote work far outweigh the disadvantages.


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