Until the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic, remote work existed all over the world, but it was a relatively rare phenomenon generally considered as a benefit. Most employers were afraid to introduce a remote work model, mainly due to the fear of a drop in productivity, a decrease in the quality of communication and a reduced ability to control employees. However, this concept was most used by new companies and entrepreneurs who had no need for offices due to the small number of employees, so their work was reduced to working from home, while meetings were held at arranged locations.
When pandemic began, most countries set a lot of restrictions and rules that prevented business as usual for a large number of companies in the world.
Some studies show that before the pandemic, the remote working model was present at around 2%, while after the pandemic it increased to 70% (source shrm.org).
In the changed environment, it was necessary to find a way to “save” the business. Companies have found themselves in the same problem, regardless of the size and the industry in which they operate. The majority of world companies found global remote work as a common possibility, through which business could be continued with as few differences as possible compared to the usual. Any position that implies that the employee’s personal presence is not necessary has transferred to a remote working model and online cooperation.
Remote work is any work that is performed outside the office, workplace of a company or institution. Remote work is much broader concept than only “work from home” and implies working from any space and location that is not tied to the fixed location of the primary institution. However, due to various restrictions during the pandemic, remote work almost 90% implied only work from home. Only those who had to be present due to the nature of their job went to the offices. They had to have an agreement with the rest of the team, in order to alternately come to the premises of the company or institution. So, at one point in time, most people (whose positions allow it) worked remotely. Entire communication with colleagues, co-workers, clients, and others was carried out online.
From many aspects, this situation was unfavorable, because people were forced to work in isolation, without having adequate working conditions prepared in advance and without the possibility of choice. Considering the interpersonal differences between people, it can be said that this model of work did not suit many people, because they didn’t have the amount of socialization and getting around among other people as they were used to. Also, there were difficulties within families that have two or more household members who work remotely and do not have enough options to provide adequate conditions for undisturbed work. Especially if you add 1+ toddler into equation who was not allowed to go to kindergarten, or school-aged children who had online lectures.
On the other hand, for families that had better conditions compared to those mentioned above, as well as people living alone or without children, this model generally proved to be very good and effective.
We are also getting to the point where different types of people exist who are mainly divided into introverts and extroverts. Introverts liked not having to constantly be in contact with a large number of people, when they are not able to avoid daily communication, while extroverts were often led into depressive states due to sudden isolation.
From the previous paragraph we can conclude that, in an imaginary situation where mandatory remote work would continue for several years, it would certainly not have a good effect on either of them. As a result of long-term confinement, introverts would most likely have a problem with normal socialization and basic life activities, especially if at some point in their lives they would have to work from the office again.
Although a completely different type of people, extroverts would have very similar problems after working from home for a long time. Instead of living as they are used to and as their traits lead them through life, they would be forced to live a life that is not in line with their personality, which can have an exclusively long-term negative effect. In the absence of social interaction, many personal and social type of problems would be born.
The period of mandatory work from home did not last too long, but with the gradual abatement of the pandemic, the so-called ‘hybrid’ way of working began to be introduced. Hybrid model implies that some number of days you work from home and your arrival to the office is usually determined in advance. In this way, there was less crowding in company premises, and employees had the option to use all the advantages of both office and work from home. Even though this model of working does not suit many, it certainly proved to be better than the exclusive and mandatory work from home.
With the reopening of some institutions and facilities, remote work no longer meant only working from home, but could also be done from other locations, depending on whether the job allows it.
Regardless of whether it is remote work, exclusively working from home, hybrid work or traditional work from the office, we live in a time when it is not comfortable to impose any of these methods on employees. All people have created certain attitudes about these models taught by their good or bad experiences. Some people really like and consider themselves more productive working from the office, while for others working from the office is a waste of time on preparation, travel, fuel, and food costs, etc. Some people don’t even like the hybrid way of working because they prefer exclusively remote work or exclusively work from the office.
The solution that turned out to be ideal is to give the employee a choice whether to come to the office or not. Possible solutions are the following:
What is necessary when negotiating a place of work is to evaluate the position and which model best suits a certain position. For some positions, it is really necessary to come to the office for at least half of the month. On the other hand, positions that do not require an office generally require other necessities for the best possible work from home.
There are companies that take the work from home organization as a very serious step. They allocate a lot of time and money for the quality and improvement of this model. For example, people who work from home receive a certain monthly allowance for the costs of working from home, bearing in mind that for the needs of the company they use their own electricity, pay for their own internet, etc. For comparison, every employer is obliged to pay the employee transportation costs, bearing in mind that they exist in order to transport the person to and from the office. In the same way, abolish that fee for people who work exclusively from home, but on the other hand provide compensation for other expenses they have.
According to the position assessment, some employers believe that it is not necessary to allocate each of these items as an additional cost, but for other positions they offer higher earnings than they would be in the case of traditional office work.
By racing with the competition, companies coming up with new benefits for which the need has arisen in the last few years. The example is that some large companies have their own houses on the outskirts, i.e., cottages (e.g. Hooloovoo), where employees can go to whenever they want and perform their duties from there. This is a great benefit for someone who lives in the city centre and does not often have the opportunity to go out into nature, let alone work in such conditions. Another example would be that companies do not limit remote work to one location (mainly the employee’s residence) but give employees the freedom to work from any location in the world. This means that the employee can travel and perform his duties from anywhere.
Given that at the time, such a little is done in a traditional way, benefits should no longer be exclusively traditional. Companies should create benefits according to the new market demands so they can remain competitive.
Like everything in life, nothing can be completely perfect, but an ideal model can be created for most employees. One of the ways is to carefully listen to the wishes, needs and opinions of all employees as well as potential candidates, in order to create such a model that suits the majority. Even if a model is created that suits all employees at the moment, that percentage will decrease over time, because people get fed up with everything that is monotonous, their life circumstances change, and thus their needs and plans, and maybe they simply change their minds.
What has been shown through decades of research is that when something is presented as an ‘absolute must’ it creates a counter psychological effect. Based on this we can conclude that, apart from the business duties themselves, the employee should have a voice in choosing his own ideal work environment. It is up to the employer to bring his business and opportunities as close as possible to the wishes of the employees, without thinking that the issue is solved forever. It is necessary to constantly work on improving the work model and to keep up with market demands and innovations, and through cleverly introduced changes to retain the employee and attract new people to the company.
It can be said that employee requirements have changed drastically compared to each previous decade. A survey conducted by Microsoft in January 2021 shows that over 73% of respondents want extremely flexible terms regarding the place and/or time of work. This is an indicator that the market is changing rapidly and is becoming less and less like the previous one.
Several frequent requirements and conditions that employees demand when search for the new employer are listed in the text above, and they are not always easily feasible or profitable for the employer. When we talk about small and medium-sized enterprises, especially in Serbia and other similar countries, most of them are very difficult to implement. Large corporations, which have the conditions and opportunities to respond to most of the requests of their employees, defy smaller companies that still manage to maintain their benefits exclusively in the traditional way. Meaning that smaller companies must devise different solutions that will compensate for the difference in terms and benefits of large corporations in order to keep up with the competition.
However, as far as that competitive relationship in the market is concerned, nothing is exclusive and there are no rules. Individuals would never work in large corporations regardless of the conditions they offer and would always prefer smaller companies. On the other hand, there are people who would always choose working in corporations over smaller companies. Also, not all people have the same reasons for changing jobs, while there are also people who almost never change jobs, regardless of market trends.
This tells us that all companies should create the conditions that suit them and that they consider the most effective for their business and correct it in relation to the activity in which they operate and what profiles they are aiming for. In this way, every employee will find an employer in a timely manner that offers a business model, working conditions and benefits that best suit him personally according to his own criteria.