Remote Work - Independence or Isolation?

11 May, 2020
Remote work is becoming very popular. Even though it provides more autonomy, it can also become invasive and deteriorate a person's social life. In addition, it eventually decreases a person's intellectual capacity.
 

Work as people know it has changed significantly in recent years. One of the most relevant transformations is the emergence and spread of remote work. Currently, this modality is very popular around the world. In fact, some expect it to be the predominant mode of work in the near future.

Working remotely has many great benefits. It saves valuable time and money in transportation. At the same time, it helps reduce traffic and, therefore, environmental pollution. In general, it offers workers greater time flexibility and autonomy.

However, remote work also has several problematic aspects. For instance, it almost always involves physically working alone. Thus, you don’t have someone sitting near you to discuss things with or just joke around during a break. Coworkers become an abstract and strictly functional presence.

As you can see, this raises questions about the future of organizations. Will collaborative environments no longer exist? Will this lack of contact with peers be harmful, as coworkers often contribute to solving problems and brainstorming?

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

-African proverb-

A person working on a laptop.
 

The pros of remote work

Remote work has some rather relevant benefits. The first one, as we already mentioned, is that it allows workers to save money on transportation. In this regard, it allows them to save money and emotional energy, as they don’t have to be in the middle of the frenzy that prevails in large cities. Thus, it’s cheaper for the worker, the company, and society at large.

Similarly, remote work or telecommuting eliminates geographical barriers and anyone can work anywhere in the world. This is a win-win situation for any company because it allows them access to more talented profiles. Also, it’s good for the workers because there’s a much wider labor market to choose from.

Teleworking, above all, offers workers a wide margin of autonomy. In addition to being more likely to negotiate their schedule, they also avoid the pressures of on-site work. For example, they have to invest less in work clothes. Likewise, they can create their own work environment and do it in a way that makes them feel most comfortable. Ultimately, remote work provides people greater independence.

The cons of telecommuting

Just as remote work guarantees greater autonomy, it also requires great self-discipline. No one is strictly monitoring the work, and this lack of external control could lead some people to become disorganized. Also, some people simply can’t replicate the company’s work routine inside their home. Thus, disorder and instability become predominant.

 

When people don’t leave their homes every day, household problems end up interfering with their work sometimes. There’s no break from the family environment and, if it isn’t a healthy one, it’ll have a negative impact on their performance. Additionally, there may be many more interruptions and distractions at home.

Likewise, there’s the handicap that workers no longer have physical colleagues. This could negatively impact a person’s social life and lead to a feeling of loneliness. Likewise, it can harm the work in the sense that the intellectual and emotional stimulus given by an immediate team is lost. Thus, the quality of the tasks could decrease, as well as the ability to do collaborative work.

A woman at a cafeteria.

A model under construction

Remote work is a relatively new modality, mainly linked to computer science. However, if we look in history, we’ll find other precedents, such as sewing work). We’re in a phase in which methods and processes are being refined to enhance all their advantages. In fact, in the computer world, there isn’t a great interest in solving problems in the way that this type of work demands.

 

In principle, distance shouldn’t be a limitation to carrying out collaborative and integrative experiences. These are the foundations of innovation. Currently, the “octopus” type structure has been imposed. This is a model in which there’s a leader that concentrates, creates, and unites the scattered pieces. Of course, this would have to evolve over time.

Ideally, remote work shouldn’t lead to workers who are isolated, lonely, and whose private lives are invaded by their work. There are still many pieces to adjust to reach this goal.

In conclusion, telecommuting is a new challenge for organizations and for those charged with organizational well-being.