The answer is a resounding Yes.
While remote working has been the most significant trend in the last two years, like all good things, it will come to an end in 2022. While the reasons for the same are multiple and outlined in this blog, the primary reason is the need among humans for companionship and seeking peer advice in whatever they do.
Since the dawn of the first civilization, the Sumerian Civilization, in 3000 BC, humans have always sought the company of other human beings to work and flourish together. It is the inherent sense to belong to a community and work together, passing on from one generation to another, that is responsible for our bonding and working cohesively with each other.
One can also see examples of the same within nature, be it a herd of elephants or a pride of lions; all live and hunt together for their survival. Even humans, for that matter, have always preferred groups and the company of others, be it to hunt or celebrate a momentous occasion in their lives.
However, these strong bonding feelings were overcome by the need to survive the pandemic and led to people socially distancing themselves from each other both personally and at work. It eventually led to people adopting the concept of remote working, which though present earlier, was not so popular and reserved for a select few.
As the world regains its footing in the war against the pandemic and things return to normal, people will start bonding and working together again. But that is not just the reason that remote working will cease to exist in 2022 (except in a few IT companies).
The reasons are much more personal!
Image Source: Pixabay
Let's face it, nearly everyone working remote has had a moment of self-doubt in his capabilities and skills while staring at the monitor for hours. These self-doubt moments are further compounded by thoughts on what your colleagues are up to or if the boss is aware of your contributions.
Earlier, with offices encouraging peer-to-peer competition, people-focused consciously on improving their skills and trying to be ahead of the pack. Rivalries were openly discussed, with people choosing their favorites for promotion. That no longer seems to be the case, as people can no longer ascertain what their colleagues are doing.
The FOMO factor is much deeper than we would like to admit. Gradually, this could lead to a decline in productivity and your worst fears turning true on the work front, i.e., being unemployable.
These self-doubts could see people leaving remunerative but remote careers for lower-paying jobs with more interaction.
2. Social Contact Issues
The effects of lack of social contact among colleagues are being felt much more than ever before.
Even Bill Gates, in his latest note, Year in Review 2021, finds reduced social contact while remote working to be counter-productive.
He illustrates a scenario wherein people working together in an office could see what they were doing. Whether they were in a mood to discuss work or chat about the latest movie, the party last night, and other things not related to work.
These spontaneous interactions among colleagues stopped entirely with the advent of remote work. While companies have created numerous WhatsApp groups and Slack channels for employees to stay connected and inquire about their wellbeing, it just doesn't have the same vibrancy and feeling.
If people continue practicing remote working in isolation without constant social contact with their colleagues, there may come a time when the mere thought of meeting someone may put them off it.
That's something we all need to watch out for!
Image Source: Unsplash
3. The turf wars at home
Office politics seem to have given way to turf was at home, as remote workers (especially men) tried adjusting to the new work-from-home norms. While helping your partner in the kitchen or with the children's homework seemed exciting in the earlier days, the charm soon wore off and led to people avoiding even those activities they cherished earlier.
Being present constantly at home gave them a real-life perspective they could only imagine from their office cubicle earlier, with the constant refrain that they worked harder than their partner.
This intrusion on each other's personal space has seen divorce rates soaring, with 1 in 10 couples considering separation from their partners in the United States. Working from home has also led to an increase in the stress levels of people staying together, leading to work-productivity issues.
Inadequate support from their companies during their separation and stressful times have seen many employees leaving their organizations within one year of their separation.
Image Source: Pixabay
4. Low Productivity Issues
Once the euphoria around better productivity due to remote working died down, companies started realizing that the actual truth was different.
Remote working does not enhance productivity.
With no simple way (without invading the employee's privacy) to monitor the actual time employees spent on work, it became difficult to gauge their output v/s the same time spent working in a physical office.
On the employee front, too, employees faced a problem of being constantly motivated to give 100% to their tasks without being supervised or being available to seek feedback from their seniors and peers.
What is also leading to low productivity issues is the fatigue of working from a single place environment over the last few months without any means of recreation or bonding with other team members.
Adding to low productivity issues is the stress related to remote working. More prolonged than expected hours, work-related pressures, uncertainty on the job front, and lack of trust add to employees’ stress while working from home.
Image Source: Pixabay
5. Lack of a proper feedback mechanism
Incidentally, what employees are missing most are the water cooler conversations they had with their colleagues and seniors. These impromptu conversations often served as a feedback mechanism for employees attempting new projects or other tasks.
The water cooler conversations also helped employees seek advice on work and personal issues without scheduling a formal meeting.
When discussing a project over a Zoom call, one does not get the same feeling. With limited time, a fixed schedule, and multiple issues seeking their time, it becomes difficult for senior management to have an in-depth discussion with every employee and address their concerns on an individual level.
Given the lack of time, it also makes employees hesitant to discuss any personal or work issues they may be facing, leading to poor morale and dissatisfaction with one's career.
6. Lack of a stimulating environment & personal discipline
Let's face it, you've been watching the same wallpaper for months now and have become bored with the same ambiance every day. While you are free to select where you would like to sit and work, there are just a few places within your home where you are comfortable doing so.
Unlike an office, which is always buzzing with people and has a noisy cafeteria and an energizing environment, working from home is not the same. There is an inherent need to talk, connect, and engage with other people, which is impossible from a home environment.
The resulting boredom leads to reduced productivity and lack of motivation while working.
Adding to the challenge of a stimulating environment is the issue of personal discipline. Given that there is no constant supervision or monitoring, it's easier for employees to lose focus and spend more time scrolling through their phones than when they are in an office environment.
Such distractions tend to make employees unfocused on their tasks, resulting in more time than expected to complete them.
Image Source: Pixabay
7. No work-life balance
As per a recent survey by Harvard Business Review conducted among 1,500 people in 46 countries, nearly 90% of employees responded that their work-life balance has worsened due to working remotely.
With teams and clients spread across different time zones, online meetings at unearthly hours, and the differences between work and off-time diminishing, employees can no longer maintain a proper work-life balance. That is beginning to affect both their personal and work lives profoundly.
Going ahead, organizations will need to focus more on enforcing a proper work-life balance to maintain their productivity levels and reduce employee attrition rates.
Image Source: Pixabay
8. The need to constantly upgrade on the technology front
Earlier employees were happy to let their IT desks resolve any networking or hardware issues they faced on the work front while logging in a support ticket.
With remote working, the scenario has now reversed. As a result, many employees need to upgrade their basic knowledge to ensure that they can resolve minor technology issues while also using the latest tools to stay connected and be productive on the work front.
Employees also need to recreate the available space at their homes to ensure they have a dedicated workspace with easy connectivity and better communication facilities.
Unfortunately, not everybody is technically aligned and comfortable troubleshooting IT problems independently. That results in connectivity issues, more downtime, loss of productive hours, and more.
Adding to the problems is the employees' frustration at being unable to resolve the technical issues compared to his peers.
9. Humans are not designed for remote working
Humans are social beings who need to meet, interact and engage with others constantly as a part of their existence. Therefore, the need for physical proximity has been inherent and a part of our daily lives for thousands of years.
Given this scenario, to expect people to form remote or virtual bonds while working with each other cannot be expected. Furthermore, it could lead to physical or mental issues in the long run.
Just as nature evolves to adapt to its surroundings, we could soon find ourselves in a situation wherein our body adapts to remote working and cannot readjust itself to the physical working environment over time.
Image Source: Pixabay
10. Remote working is not suitable for all industries
The concept of remote working is only ideal for office-based jobs, wherein people don't need to step out to complete their tasks or meet and interact with other people.
Many industries still depend on physical meetings and intimacy for their survival, such as film making, food & beverage, retail, travel & hospitality, etc.
Given that a significant number of industries require employees to be physically present at the workplace, expecting remote working to be a significant work environment disruptor is not realistic.
Remote working needs to be looked upon more closely to see if it adds value to the work & productivity of an organization.
Is the hybrid working a possible solution?
While companies look for alternate ways to stay productive and debate whether to call their teams back to the office or keep working remotely, hybrid working seems to be a possible solution.
However, hybrid working poses more problems than solutions to the concept of remote working. It raises ethical questions on which employees are more critical and need to work from the office and those that the organization can do without them being physically present.
It raises the issue of flexibility and how would the day's employees can work remotely be selected. For example, would employees have a say when they would like to attend an office or follow an official mandate?
Moreover, the costs associated with maintaining both a remote and work-from-office environment would be stupendous, and the primary reason companies would not be inclined to implement a hybrid working model. The rising office space lease rentals and operating costs would make it financially unviable for any business.
On the employee front, a hybrid working model could lead to higher stress levels as they try to cope with both work from home and office environments.
Image Source: Pixabay
The future of remote working, as we know it!
While remote working is convenient, we predict that few industries will follow a completely remote working model. Instead, some companies may return to work from the office environment much sooner than they plan. Others may experiment with a hybrid model until they develop a middle path that covers employees' health concerns and addresses productivity issues.
The recent investments by large-scale corporations such as Facebook, Microsoft in the Metaverse, a 3-D space with digital avatars could be a possible solution to enhancing communication and social contact among employees, making remote working a viable concept.
Using the Metaverse, companies could organize meetings wherein people could send their avatars to meet other people in a virtual space. During these meetings, employees could experience and enjoy the same feeling and emotions as being present in a physical room with others.
However, to experience these meetings, people would need to invest in technologies such as VR glasses, motion capture gloves, immersive audio systems, etc., which are highly expensive and easily accessible at the moment.
In the next 1-2 years, one could see further development in this space, making remote working more engaging and productive.
Until then, companies need to work actively on addressing the issues their employees face if they wish to continue in a remote working environment, or it could be the end of remote working as we know it.