This is a series of blogs exploring how the world has rapidly transitioned to a remote working environment, the technological opportunities which this has created, and the social and psychological issues which need to be addressed. Read the first blog here, the second blog here and the third blog here.
It has been a pretty wet Autumn in the UK in 2020, so imagine my delight when on a recent Thursday afternoon my grass was dry enough to nip outside from my home office and run the lawnmower over it for the first time this month. Although brought on by a terrible pandemic, I certainly felt like I was living the telecommuter dream sold to me in my youth. My home office is connected by high-speed broadband to a world spanning computer network enabling me to work wherever I am on the planet. Virtually inconceivable thirty years ago, working from home has now become the everyday reality for millions of workers around the world.
However, as I sit here researching the impact of homeworking I have come to appreciate that whilst I am very fortunate to be a beneficiary of the technological change occurring around me, many people and organisations have been thrown into a technological and environmental turmoil not of their own making. For them, working from home has swapped one uncomfortable employment situation for a potentially far worse one. Isolation, domestic abuse, cybercrime and untrusting management conspire to make working from home a nightmare for many people. As well as battling a deadly pandemic which has caused many markets to crash, employers are struggling to come to terms with the demands of managing a dispersed workforce, and are battling to adapt their business processes to cope with the new normal. Where management trust was already lacking, managers are sailing perilously close to the ethical wind in setting up employee surveillance. Additionally, companies are missing out on development opportunities for their rising stars.
Just because we have the technological ability to work from home, will employers and employees be able to transition to this new way of working in the long term? Many new technologies have the potential to bridge the gaps emerging in our working environment, but will that be enough to sustain a remote workforce indefinitely? It is possible that we are still in a transition period, and that the polarised view of working either from offices in cities or at home will eventually be replaced by a new suburbanised working environment.