9/1/2020

Pros & Cons of Our Increasingly Remote World

When COVID-19 first started closing down offices and businesses, the idea of working from home was a bit foreign to some. Before COVID-19, there simply wasn’t much reason for certain companies to have remote workers. However, as many communities and cities across the globe were instructed to shelter in place and self-isolate, the world of remote work suddenly became a temporary haven for employees and employers alike.

Now, as we enter the 8th month of this unprecedented year, there are plenty of people who are still working remotely full-time. In fact, Google recently announced that they intend to keep their office doors closed until the summer of 2021, instructing employees to stay home.

With this increasingly remote world becoming the norm seemingly overnight, many are discovering that while working from home certainly does have its pros, it can also have its cons.  

The Art of Remote Communication

Communication is often the keystone of any well-functioning business. Many businesses also rely on a variety of communication avenues to keep operations running smoothly. According to those at Rider University, written communication, verbal and non-verbal communication, and active listening are just some of the essential communicating skills that help employees stay motivated and productive. Now, with so many of us working from home, those lines of communication have changed. 

Video-based communication, such as Zoom or Skype, has become the main source of communication for remote workers. Of course, there is still the help of instant messaging with tools such as Slack, but video conferences and meetings are predominately the way businesses have maintained lines of communication with their employees. This has opened up an entirely new form of remote-specific skills. 

When you can’t be in the same room as clients, bosses, and co-workers, how does the communication change? Non-verbal communication queues are almost completely stifled with video. Even if you have a reliable, fast internet connection that doesn’t turn everyone on your screen into a lump of frozen-in-place pixels, it’s difficult to pick up on body language and emotions. This can lead to an increase in conflict and make it more difficult to motivate employees. 

Many also have to contend with new distractions. Active listening is a key component to receiving and fully understanding new information, instructions, and strategies, but now, with employees working from home, there are a lot more obstacles that can interfere with a person’s ability to actively listen. Crying or bored children, pets demanding to be let out, then back in, then back out. There are also likely roommates or a spouse working from home as well, and many don’t have enough room in their homes to have more than one dedicated working space. The list could go on and on.

Luckily, as the weeks continue by, much of the workforce has learned how to adjust to these new forms of communication and are working towards improving their remote-specific skills. In fact, many companies are finding that employees are still productive and successful while working remotely, which is creating a huge shift towards the possibility of continuing remote work even after the pandemic has ended.    

Remote Work and the Impacts on the Environment 

There’s a lot to weigh and consider in regards to remote work and the effect it has had on Earth so far. Since the beginning of this pandemic, there has been a major drop in air pollution due to fewer people driving to and from work every day. Additionally, there has been a reduction of environmental noise levels which are known to cause health problems and alterations to certain ecosystem’s natural state. In many ways, COVID-19 has indirectly affected our environment positively. However, this doesn’t mean it hasn’t also negatively impacted the environment either. 

Unfortunately, there has been a significant increase in waste over the past months. With more medical waste, such as masks, gloves, and sanitizing wipes, and recycling centers temporarily closing down, as well as online ordering and deliveries increasing, COVID-19 has indirectly harmed the environment as much as it has “helped” it. There’s also the matter of people simply being home more often and thus, using more resources like water and power.

With all of this in mind, it’s imperative that we start incorporating better energy-saving habits while working from home. This can look like:

● Switching to a laptop. Laptops have been shown to use significantly less energy than your average desktop.

● Turning devices off or putting them to sleep when not in use. You can also go into settings and activate a timer that will put devices to sleep after 15 minutes of inactivity.

● Utilizing a power strip to avoid energy-draining “phantom mode” that electronics often enter into when not in use. 

It’s also important while working from home to put a stop to other harmful habits you may have developed during the pandemic. Try ordering online less as the emissions from delivery trucks and planes, as well as all that packaging waste, are really starting to impact our world. Limit your water use if possible and take shorter and fewer showers and baths. 

While it is important to note that the impacts on our environment aren’t exclusively coming from individuals, rather, dozens of unchecked corporations, it’s still essential that we take measures to reduce the negative effects on our planet we contribute to while working remotely. 

How Does Remote Work Affect our Health?

Another concern that comes from working from home is health. In many ways, working from home can be beneficial to our overall wellness. In a 2018 survey, 3,000 people shared that the flexibility of remote work had a positive impact on their quality of life and helped to reduce stress. However, these days, there is a rising concern with the level of inactivity that prolonged periods of remote work and self-isolation can lead to.

People are now sitting at their desks or on their couch more often and for longer periods of time. This increase in sedentary behavior can be harmful to your health. It can lead to weight gain, problems with hip joints, bad posture, and weaken muscles. 

To prevent some of these negative effects, make a concerted effort to stand up and walk around more throughout your day. You could also consider wearing compression socks to improve circulation in your legs and feet. With enough small changes and improvements, you can lessen the negative health effects that arise while working remotely. And considering we’re still not sure how long the pandemic will continue on for, it’s better to start making changes now rather than later. 

The world of business and its workforce are in the midst of some historically-significant changes. While remote work was in use prior to COVID-19, no one could have predicted that this year it would become the main avenue in which we conduct the majority of our work and business efforts. There are numerous pros and cons to working from home, so it will certainly be interesting to watch how the world’s workforce adapts to these new challenges and successes. 

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