Don’t count on working from home forever

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Many of us have become accustomed to being able to roll out of bed a bit later, spend a bit more time with the family and even sneakily binge watch shows during work since we started working from home.

Unfortunately, those are habits you may want to avoid forming because locally, businesses seem eager to welcome back their full workforce once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed or is under control.

This is according to research garnered from the Digital Corporation in South Africa 2021 report released this week by World Wide Worx.

While the research deals mainly with digital transformation, respondents in the survey were also asked what proportion of staff they expect to full return to the office?

Two thirds of SA businesses say the pandemic pushed digital transformation backwards

“This is, I believe, the single most important question we asked,” says managing director at World Wide Worx, Arthur Goldstuck.

“Two thirds of respondents said they expect all staff will come back. That sounds high until you look at the flipside of that coin, one third of companies do not expect all staff to return,” adds the MD.

The study shows that this sentiment is shared between small (51 – 200 employees) and large companies (200+ employees).

The question we have is why companies are so averse to remote work.

Answering that question isn’t easy because there are many good reasons why firms don’t want to encourage remote work in a post-COVID-19 world.

One of the more interesting reasons given is highlighted in this 2019 article from SHRM featuring an excerpt from an interview with Judith Olson. At the time of publication, Olson was regarded as a distance-work expert and a professor at University of California Irvine, a position she still occupies.

“There is evidence that when working at home uninterrupted, you get a lot more solo work done,” said Olson.

“It’s the collaboration aspect that suffers. There is something called ‘the attribution error’ in psychology that plays out here: If someone local is unavailable or out of the office, you attribute it to the situation, that something must have come up. If someone remote is unavailable, you attribute it to the personality, that they are shirking, avoiding you or are incompetent. So, the decision-makers, who are likely in the office, attribute evil personal motivations to remote workers with whom they can’t connect easily,” the prof adds.

Other reasons for not planning on supporting remote work further include a lack of infrastructure and support for remote workers, managers not being equipped to supervise remote workers and a lack of productivity.

All of this shows us that there is no right or wrong answer to being able to work from home. For example, if we were in sales in marketing we’d prefer to work from an office owing to the number of calls we’d have to make in a day.

Every position and company will be different and we’d argue that if you feel as if your team can operate as well or better remotely, approach management and make your case.

Unfortunately, trends have shown us that if you aren’t willing to state your case, your company is likely to ask you to come back to the office where you will have to daydream about your fluffy slippers and your co-worker who happens to be a dog.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.