The COVID-19 pandemic has made employees working from home (WFH) a reality. It is unquestionable and undeniable that the future of work will be anchored on the continuous and consistent adoption of digital technologies. As organizations embraced WFH so as to ensure business continuity and resilience, employees enjoyed the flexibility of being able to work around their personal obligations, which was a rarity in the erstwhile set- up.
It may be a paradigm shift for many an employee to switch from telecommuting to the traditional office environment. During this pandemic season, there has been an uplift in the gig economy and working from anywhere (WFA) models, notwithstanding the technological advancements due to the 4th industrial revolution. These concepts were previously only discussed in academia but widely frowned upon at the enterprise level.
Employees working from home promotes productivity and effectiveness
According to Doug Schmitt, the President of Dell Technologies Services, “work should be an outcome, not a physical location.” For employees working from home, the buzzword should be productivity and effectiveness and not necessarily one’s presence in the office. With the global upsurge in COVID cases and a possible 3rd wave of the contagion with the onset of winter, a number of Western nations are in the midst of a 2nd national lockdown. Will enabling a WFH program be the next strategic frontier for company’s culture and operations, considering that some multinationals are headquartered in these territories?
This offsite work model has increasingly gained credence amongst industry leaders, and as the Chief Cloud Strategy Officer for Deloitte Consulting, David Linthicum opined, “organizations will immensely benefit when their employees are allowed to work at home.” He further stated that he doesn’t see most companies going back to the office for positions that lend themselves to working at home – the advantages are just too compelling.
The Bank of England’s Chief Economist, Andy Haldane, noted that the output per worker does not seem to have suffered, by working remotely. Happiness levels appear to have risen, in part because workers don’t much care for beginning and ending the day, because they feel they have more control over their working lives.
Opportunity to freelance
The gig or freelance economy is typified by the prevalence of independent, temporary work that is conducted on a short-term or a task-by-task basis. This has been necessitated by a cohort of employees, who are aggressively pursuing their passions and hobbies, alongside their respective career options. The greater flexibility and need for extra cash has emanated from working remotely. They now have an opportunity to toggle between employment and entrepreneurship.
The Centre for Global Development in its report entitled, Let’s Be Real: The Informal Sector and the Gig Economy are the Future, and the Present, of Work in Africa, clearly states that the gig economy is “the future of work in Africa”. The report observed that her people will be working multiple gigs with “somewhat formal” entities. We are already seeing this happening, and it will be propagated into the foreseeable future.
A separate study commissioned by Mercy Corps’ Youth Impact Labs (YIL), with the objective of studying the current state and the future outlook of the gig economy in Kenya, also realized similar findings. The report dubbed, Towards a Digital Workforce: Understanding the Building Blocks of Kenya’s Gig Economy, found that the online gig economy has gradually grown in Kenya. It has transformed how Kenyans access work and is gradually transitioning young Kenyans towards more accessible, competitive and consistent job opportunities.
The gig economy has numerous benefits for gig workers.
- Gig work buffers unemployment, increases labor force participation, enables economic opportunities and increases the productivity of Kenyan youth.
- Moreover, gig workers are afforded flexible work opportunities. The autonomous nature of gig work has enabled some gig workers to transition into entrepreneurial positions.
- Additionally, gig workers working through platforms report improved livelihoods as a result of access to frequent and decent jobs which in turn results in stable incomes.
Flexibility of working from anywhere
In WFA, employees work from third place locations, typically within a specific country, but in some cases, anywhere in the world with a reliable internet connection. Working from anywhere grants employees geographical flexibility. In this arrangement, employees work from a location of their choice.
Coffee shops are common amongst gig workers. As you munch away your snack, the background chatter fosters the creativity you need to execute your work. The local library is yet another WFA option. It will provide you with a sense of calm and quietude. Alternatively, you could simply have your workspace in the outdoors, if the weather is favorable.
The renowned Organizational Culture Expert and Chief Visionary Officer of The Street University, Dr. Wale Akinyemi, states that one’s value is determined not by being present, but by making your presence positively significant. If your presence doesn’t amount to positive significance, then you are not only a waste of space, but an obstruction. He further asserts that life is measured by impact and not by being present. On this premise, if as an employee, you are effective by working remotely, why should you be remanded in an office set-up?
The case for employees working from home is quite compelling, especially if you consider the ‘no commute’ and flexible hours. You may ask, will working from home outlast the COVID pandemic? Well, with the momentum that has been garnered in 2020 to enhance employee productivity using offsite work models, we may see this trend catch-on in the coming years. Whereas, the pandemic caught most organizations flat-footed, it has gone a long way to demonstrate that remote working is feasible, with a marked increase in productivity and lower operational costs.
From the foregoing, it is evident that employees have an affinity for the WFH model. WFH was a hard sell pre-pandemic, but has increasingly been embraced post-pandemic. This ideology is ideal for employees who value day-to-day flexibility in their schedules. Certainly, organizations will not rush to return to the pre-COVID onsite work models. What are your thoughts about the merits of WFH to the workforce? In the subsequent articles, we’ll explore divergent schools of thought and the way forward.
The author is a management consultant with Global Strategy Consultants and can be reached on email@example.com