Remote Work Infrastructure Still Lacks the Means to Make Up for In-Person Connections

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As 2020 is coming to a close, the world has gained a better understanding of remote work (and learning.) Much has been said of the good as findings have consistently exceeded expectations in terms of the benefits of remote work. Productivity, it seems, has not been an issue either for most.

However, WFH still seems to have a multitude of loopholes. Opinions and data have become increasingly disparate as the lockdown the world has been in has progressed over the months. Rightly called an impromptu experiment, the learning and employment climates of 2020 have equipped us with more resources to make informed decisions in the future.

Some baseline predictions have been made enough times to reinforce the likelihood of them coming true. For instance, remote and hybrid work will definitely become common employment modes in the years to come, potentially deadly virus in the air or not. Employers and employees alike have especially expressed interest in the hybrid model for its flexibility in letting employees work remotely and in the office for a set number of hours per week.

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On the other hand, workers have started reporting burnout, loss of creativity and motivation, and losing a sense of work/home separation. On top of that, remote work has robbed people of the organicity of working in the same place as their colleagues.

Online Meetings: More Trouble than they’re Worth

Employees now express fatigue. The number of meetings office workers attend has gone up as compared to before the pandemic. Remote working makes communication more essential than ever before, however, without the support of a shared environment, everything needs to be scheduled and often squeezed into the workday or augmented to it. Furthermore, scheduling in itself is a difficult task given that everyone is in different places now.

According to a survey conducted by Doodle, 38% of employees report exhaustion due to virtual meetings whereas 30% feel stressed out due to them. Moreover, due to the ability to record, many employees revisit their meetings, sometimes causing themselves more harm than good. Clients also report losing focus due to background noise and experience miscommunications due to network glitches.

Currently, 76% of US employees are experiencing worker burnout due to the prolonged effects of remote work. Out of these, 30% cite reduced working hours and increased paid time off as potential solutions to the problem.

Employees all over the world have also reported deteriorating mental health with increased instances of anxiety, depression, and isolation. The workplace psychologists at Bupa, a private healthcare provider in the UK, have been fully booked ever since the pandemic began.

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In-person human connection, even if it comes in the form of borrowing a stapler from a colleague in the neighboring cubicle, adds value and a sense of normalcy to one’s day-to-day life. In the APAC region, 68% of employees miss working in an office and one of the top 3 reasons for this is wanting to work face-to-face and collaborate with coworkers and colleagues.

At the moment, technology has not made enough progress to resolve this disconnect people are feeling and buckling under the pressure of.

The Luxury of Technology

Despite coming with its own set of difficulties, remote work has kept people from losing their jobs, protected their health, and has maintained the productivity of companies.

However, technology is not accessible to all. This stands especially true for third world countries with lower average incomes and large unorganized workforces who work jobs that cannot be done virtually.

A smaller than ideal portion of the employed populations of these countries have been able to continue working during the pandemic. Job losses have been more devastating for those in the third world, but unemployment has increased worldwide.

Additionally, with education becoming online, students who do not have the right devices or an internet connection have suffered major losses. Many have had to drop out, many have started failing subjects, and students with disabilities have missed out on their special education requirements.

This raises the question of whether technology should still be a luxury in this day and age wherein virtual connectivity is considered essential and is bound to become even more embedded in daily life. Whatever the answer to that might be, the fact remains that an already unlevel playing field has become even more disparate because technology isn’t affordable for all.

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