As several nations tackle the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus COVID-19, millions of people are working from home for the first time. From small businesses in China to global giants like Apple, companies worldwide are encouraging their employees to work remotely. As the outbreak (and lockdown in some parts of the world) affects the way businesses work normally, even traditional businesses are considering alternative working models to allow their employees to continue working within their new constraints.
Coronavirus and Remote Working Tools
An interesting indicator of just how much Coronavirus has affected working professionals is a look at how remote working tools are doing in the market. Shares of Zoom Video Communications, Inc. ZM have soared over 85% in 2020. Yahoo reports that in China, Microsoft has seen a 500 percent increase in Microsoft Teams meetings, calling, and conferencing, as well as a 200 percent increase in Teams usages on mobile devices. In the first week of March, four of the world’s biggest companies – Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft – asked its Seattle workers to remain home till the end of the month. Twitter announced that it was optimizing all its internal meetings for remote participation. As companies big and small start to implement remote working setups both internally and with their external partners, they are starting to realize the benefit of collaborative tools like Slack and Google Docs. Some scheduled conferences like Adobe Summit, are now offering an “online-only” format.
A Shift in Thinking
This is not the first time a specific event is prompting companies to consider the benefits of remote working. In early 2018, there was a swell of icy weather sweeping the entire planet — from the massive January cyclone in the eastern United States to the “Beast from the East” in Europe, which claimed dozens of lives. Thousands of employees underwent temporary remote working transitions after these super storms due to the inaccessibility of roads and transportation. Several of these companies spent a significant amount of time preparing for the dramatic workspace adjustment. Moments such as these seem to highlight the antiquated nature of modern office settings.
It’s only during these times of crises that many companies experience first-hand the disadvantages of a traditional office setup. However, bad weather, long commutes, traffic jams, and poor work-life balance are some of the realities of an everyday office job. Inevitable crises such as Coronavirus force companies to change their mindsets and explore better alternatives.
Companies are starting to lean towards remote working to not just provide better freedom and flexibility to their employees but also develop a working model that it is more robust and sustainable in the long run, especially in the face of unprecedented crises, which can lead to heavy losses.
Employee Wellness and Productivity
It is no secret that the majority of remote workers are happier and less stressed that their office-going counterparts. While freelancing and remote working was always common in professions like writing or designing, in the last decade, even traditional desk jobs are being transformed. The Coronavirus scare has prompted companies to request their employees to take preventive measures, ban international travel, and even cancel important conferences. For some people, especially with weak immune systems, working from home is a blessing as it allows them to continue functioning normally while avoiding any risk of contracting the disease. With the possibility of preschools and schools entirely shutting down in some areas, working from home comes as a relief for parents who need to be both at home and at work at the same time.
While putting the health & safety of their employees first and asking them to work from home, companies are realizing a wealth of benefits that come from having more flexible policies in place. These benefits are of value to both parties — remote working helps employees stay happier, healthier and productive — while companies can save on costs, time and benefit from motivated and energetic employees.
A lasting workplace change?
The Coronavirus pandemic is testing remote working on a global scale. It’s not just tech companies that are urging their workforces to stay at home: pharma and biotech companies like Eli Lilly and Biogen have also followed suit. NASA Ames Research Centre has asked its employees to work from home after a worker tested positive for coronavirus.
On Kolabtree, there was an increase of 150% of freelancer registrations last year, which reflects just how much the way we get things done is changing. Kolabtree’s freelance scientists work remotely, are spread across 175+ countries, and help businesses with everything from product development to data analysis.
Outbreaks like the Coronavirus gives companies a chance to reevaluate their processes and identify which of their job profiles are actually location-independent. While some jobs are simply not possible to take on remotely, there are several jobs that can already be done from home, and some which can transition to remote roles based in tech/policy improvements. As Coronavirus forces several companies to work from home, they now have a chance to see what works and what doesn’t. Companies (especially in China) that have always worked in a fixed office environment are now testing the remote work waters. Times like these will help companies, especially those in leadership positions, reassess their policies and invest in creating workforces that are more resilient, scalable and robust.