It has been two years since the Covid-19 was declared a pandemic globally. Due to multiple lockdowns, we tend to find ourselves struggling both emotionally and physically. Despite these challenges, we continuously adjust ourselves from time to time, especially for those who have transitioned to remote work. Employers and companies have also adapted. They have made substantial efforts to provide the support necessary to ensure their employees are well-adjusted and productive. While all looks well on the surface, have we adapted to long-term remote working?
What is remote working, and how does it benefit us? Remote working is to work outside the traditional office settings. It is not a new concept and has been around for many years to accommodate the demands and nature of work across various industries, such as technology companies. Due to global lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus, companies globally have adopted remote work as it is the safest and most feasible form of working. There are benefits to remote working. For example, employees can have more flexibility in managing work and personal life. They can also save time typically spent commuting to their office and allocate it instead to complete their work faster. Working parents can be more attentive to their children’s needs at home without compromising their work commitment by having flexible work scheduling. Companies also benefit by having more productive employees and reducing office costs, such as office rent and utilities. Increasingly, surveys from EY Malaysia and Flexjobs also show a significant increase in job satisfaction and better mental health in employees in companies that provide remote working as an option. In other words, remote work gives the employees more sense of control in life and improves their well-being in general. Are we truly adapting well to remote working? In the initial phase of the pandemic, both employers and employees had to adjust to remote work, with varying degrees of success and challenges. But after two years, have we adapted well to remote working? Savills Malaysia’s survey conducted in 2021 shows that 61% of respondents prefer to work exclusively in the office, compared to 32% of respondents who choose to work in both office and from home. The majority believed that a physical office is essential and ultimately works best to recover business operations and career development. Undeniably, remote working has its disadvantages as well. There are more distractions or longer working hours when working from home if we are not mindful of keeping the boundaries between our work and personal life. More importantly, it limits the need to develop a sense of belonging to companies and improve collaborative relationships with colleagues for better professional growth and support. In general, while remote working helps achieve a work-life balance, it affects the cohesion between colleagues in the workplace. Despite adopting a hybrid working model by organizations, many employees are impatiently waiting for things to go back to normal and work to be operated entirely in the office. Nevertheless, it is premature to conclude that all business sectors should return to the traditional office environment. It still depends on the needs of both employers and employees to adopt the ideal working model in achieving a healthy, productive workforce. How do we cope if we have difficulty adapting to remote working? It is uncertain when the pandemic will end and if we can ever return to normal. But what we can do is control how we respond to adversity. Instead of reacting negatively to the challenges of remote working, we can respond to it by keeping ourselves calm and focusing on task priorities, such as:
Take a few deep breaths to help you focus back on the things you need to settle at the present moment.
Set clear boundaries between work and personal life by having a consistent schedule for managing work and personal matters.
Managing our expectations to be more realistic of what we can do is also a good practice to improve our capability to cope with stress.
Reach out to your colleagues and gain social support when you need it.
“It is important to understand that you are not alone in going through hardship. Believe it or not, your colleagues are likely experiencing the same challenges as you are. Sharing your concerns may help relieve your loneliness and gain more empathetic understanding with one another. Communicating with your colleagues or superiors enables you to get the support you need from them.”
The GHC Team