The deadly outbreak of the coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19, has become a big menace and a global nightmare for all. In the last month, many of the global tech giants have stepped up to do their bit to ensure the quick quarantine of the virus.
It has been reported that several tech behemoths such as Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Google and Twitter have urged their employees to work from home this month. This move of theirs is to ensure that the spread of the coronavirus quickly slows down or stops its spread entirely, especially in the cities which are prone to higher-risks.
While on one hand there’s no doubt that a situation like this is most certainly a grave tragedy, on the other hand, on a more positive note, we will now possess a giant trove of data on the effectiveness of working from home in our hands!
Bill Gates believes that it is very important to have great workplace flexibility and if you are an entrepreneur or a business owner who has been contemplating the same, you need to keep your eyes stuck to this ‘impromptu’ experiment.
According to a memo sent out by Amazon, they have dictated that “all employees based in Seattle/Bellevue who work in a role that can be done from home, [should] do so through the end of March.”
Likewise, 4,500 Google employees in Seattle were asked to consider working remotely by the company alongside avoiding bringing outside guests to the office.
Last Friday, Silicon Valley employees of Apple were asked to work from home as a measure of precaution against the virus.
Seattle and San Francisco based employees of Microsoft were asked by the company to work remotely till March 25th according to an internal email that was circulated among the employees.
Twitter instructed its entire worldwide workforce of 5,000 people to work from home by making it mandatory in places with higher rates of coronavirus diagnoses such as Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.
Once again, this situation however tragic can turn out to be a real silver lining for researchers who wish to study the effectiveness of remote work.
Remote Working: A Viable Option?
In 2017, an article was published on a Standford economics professor who wanted to figure out if those working from home were more or less productive from those at their regular office jobs. His name is Nicholas Bloom.
At that time in the year 2017, the lack of willing subjects was one of the biggest problems faced by Nicholas Bloom when it came to conducting a survey. Also, it was quite a difficult job to convince a company to move a big half chunk of its workforce to work from home.
However, CTrip, which was a Chinese travel agency came forward as a blessing and a solution for Bloom’s study soon after. This travel agency was owned by one of his graduate students James Liang.
Liang chose 500 of his call-centre employees for Bloom’s study and shifted half of them to work-from-home basis employment for six months whereas the other half continued to work from the office as usual. The study later concluded that the work from home employees was 13.9% more efficient and 9% more engaged than that of their in-office colleagues.
However fascinating this study was, one can question whether the results of the study were impacted by the specific job description.
Meaning, it is very common for a lot of call centres to employ work from home employees as most of the work related to such a position is performed on a singular individual contributor level.
In spite of all the data and findings of various reports, deriving a perfect conclusion is definitely not that easy when it comes to working from home. When it comes to remote work, there’s too many variables and questions that need answering involved.
- Can virtual tools replace real-time face to face contact?
- If the work will be affected by a lack of informal interactions?
- if employees will be able to fend off distractions from family and other commitments which are not related to work?
For anyone who wants to recruit the best possible employees for their organisation is still on the fence about remote work. Now all thanks to these global technology companies Amazon, Microsoft, Apple Google and Twitter, we might be able to pull some actionable insights from this situation.