Telecommuting is the New Normal

The world has changed, but possibly for the better

By Saima Arfeen

Saima is Oakwood's Associate Learning Consultant and works in our Associate Team
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It was bound to happen - we needed this push. Telecommuting is now more relevant than ever. The resistance from the majority organisations and individuals has now taken a 180 degree turn and embraced the concept – all thanks to a pandemic. The importance of change has forever been underlined and adapting to it has never been more crucial. 

Having said this, we simply can’t generalize that every job can conform to telecommuting, because they cant. What the outbreak has done is to make telecommuting the new normal, that too for the long term and this was admittedly reactive. It’s not that the concept of telecommuting was completely alien – we all were aware of it, but were too comfortable with what we had known and were used to. Due to the fear of the unknown, telecommuting has been slower to stick than it should or could have when remote work technology first began.  We can’t oversimplify the reason by stating that the hesitance or resistance was because we were only afraid of technology; it was compounded by the fact that there was a lack of interest from employers in investing in the technology and how management practices would need to change in order to operate a tele-workforce.

What the pandemic has done is to force our hand; a whiplash when it comes to a change in mind-sets and inject the investments required where telecommuting is possible. As of 2020, millennials constitute 50% of the global workforce.  Millennials are more tech savvy and prefer not to conform to the traditional 9 to 5 work routine in the office; they are firm believers in quality over quantity and dislike micromanagement. The workforce is changing; this number is expected to increase to 75% in 5 years time, and with an increased subscription of the usage of remote technology, telework is simply an essential and no longer an option. As a result, there has to be a more permanent shift toward telecommuting. 

We need to have a very realistic approach to telecommuting and just like a coin, this too has 2 sides to the argument. The plus side is that large corporations such as Twitter, Salesforce, Amazon, Microsoft and Google are a few big names which are leading the cause of employee safety and ensuring that any impact from the pandemic on business is minimal – work is uninterrupted and employees don’t need to physically be at the work premises. They can work from home as long as they meet their key objectives. The knock on effect that this has is that employees are happier (better work-life balance) and are more engaged and more productive, which works very well for the organization from a financial and brand reputational perspective. Real estate costs diminish and the environment is also helped by reduced carbon emissions. This is the future of work!

The downside is that management of telecommuting staff is challenging. Employee well-being and growth prospects also take a hit because of professional isolation. This in turn adversely impacts productivity on a long-term basis. It’s not for everyone – some will flourish and others won’t. This problem will be further amplified when this happens in teams; half the team works very well when telecommuting and the other half struggles.

It’s a double edged sword, but one that we need to master and use to our advantage because for the foreseeable future, the other option is simply not risk free. We must learn from the lessons that this global crisis has taught us – we need to change, adapt, and quite simply, this is the new normal even when the dust eventually settles.

Oakwood International have introduced a blended learning platform called ''Workshop Without Walls'' which supports our alumni, current and future student's learning journey and to ensure that these opportunities are uninterrupted in these challenging times. To find out more, please visit www.oakwooddubai.ae/workshops-without-walls/