COVID-19's impact on remote work life: Top 5 advantages and disadvantages

A new report from entertainment technology company FunCorp takes a hard look at the dramatic differences the COVID-19 crisis imposed on the enterprise, both good and bad.

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Coping with the new normal—of working from home, physically isolating from colleagues, and maneuvering the necessary technologies dictated by remote work—was not a choice, but a quickly situated necessity, as workers and office leaders struggled to adapt. The entertainment technology company FunCorp's CIO Denis Litvinov took a deep dive into how the pandemic affected remote work. Many of those who were working from home (WFH), noted the report, were incredulous that the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting telecommuting was still a thing, seven months later.

SEE: Digital Transformation: A CXO's guide (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

As the new normal enters its seventh month of social distancing and mask-wearing, it's unlikely we'll be returning to the way things were. Indeed, it is beginning to look like this lifestyle and way of working will be around for quite some time. 

Litvinov's report is a pull-no-punches look at the 10 most critical factors to the remote work forced on many employees in the industry, and breaks it down into the top five advantages and the top five disadvantages.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

FunCorp's five positives of WFH

  1. Allows for an appropriate work/home balance. Most businesses are conducted in major metropolitan areas, and employees were previously saddled with commutes, exhausting traffic jams, or queues for public transport. WFH, and especially with entire families quarantining together, employees have the opportunity to spend more time with family and home life. Fun Corp's surveys found employees are less stressed than before the pandemic. Unfortunately, world events have not and don't contribute to less stress.
  2. Productivity and focus are on the uptick. Even though there are distractions in the home, the report found overall concentration at work has improved. With the reduction of external irritants, stress is reduced and assignments are completed more efficiently, quickly and with Reduced stress levels due to lack of external irritants allow tasks to be performed faster with fewer errors or inaccuracies.
  3. More top talent want to WFH. "You pull from a larger talent pool," Litvinov's report said. By expanding geo-targeted employment,  which had been previously possible but not common, it's now the norm and has drawn talent once uninterested in telecommuting to embracing it, and looking for positions that allowed for WFH and began completing applications for these open positions.
  4. Budget friendly with better cost management. Businesses can redistribute budgets and save on their operating costs. Expenses are now viewed in "a more reasonable and business-oriented way," while still considering the global economic crisis. Office, equipment, and rental fees can now be translated into helping the current financial situation. 
  5. Wider search range benefits diversity and inclusion. Companies can now recruit talent from cities or even countries they did not have previous access to, because the hires would be working in an office setting. The recruitment process has been opened up to more diversity and inclusion.

FunCorp's top five drawbacks to WFH

Quarantining. Even though there are tech employees who describe themselves as introverts, it turns out, the report found, they're not really so introverted. There's been no greater light shone on this than during quarantine and isolation. Isolation has greatly affected employees' and leaders' moods, and water-cooler talk proved essential, even for those who are self-described or perceived as unsociable. 

Not home-office compatible. Not everyone has a perfect space to work remotely, and it can be impossible to figure a way to have an effective and organized work area. They're not able to set up an arrangement conducive to full concentration, which can directly affect employee efficiency.

No man is an island, at least when it comes to productivity. Autonomy doesn't work for everyone, not everyone can efficiently self-organize work. 

Productivity fails. WFH can present an average fall in performance. And it does not boil down to a single failure, but rather a set of reasons. Based on an individual's personality and character they might not make WFH work for them. Notable, those who procrastinate and are easily distracted struggle with productivity. 

Electronic communications can be easily misunderstood. In addition to missing in-person chats and meetings, both formal and informal, many surveyed worried about the necessary digital communication systems, such as email, chat, social media, and text, and the potential for miscommunication.

Litvinov concluded, "In general, we believe that technology companies can quickly move to distributed work without significant loss of quality."

Despite the toll the coronavirus has had on the US economy, health and social devastation, Litvinov considers these many months of the new normal as "an unprecedented opportunity to run the world's biggest-ever workplace experiment." The majority of the global technology workforce, the FunCorp report noted, were unprepared for the February/March rapid switch to remote work settings. 

New companies and startups had distributed teams, generally for cost optimization. However, mature businesses which had a pre-planned and well-structured production process often took a different route than their newer counterparts. A survey from Global Workplace Analytics found 56% of the US tech workforce, or 75 million employees, have a job description perfectly compatible with remote work (or nearly so). 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defined a potential remote job as being work-from-home-compatible, as one that:

  • Had an information component
  • Included individual vs. group work
  • Had clear parameters for evaluation
  • Did not require personal contact with customers
  • Did not require physical work that could only be done on-site

The survey included the following Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categories as compatible:

  • Professional specialty
  • Technical support
  • Administrative support
  • Half of sales jobs (assuming that half were non-retail)

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