A Note For The Naysayers: Remote Working Is Here To Stay, And We Have To Adapt
Whatever you want to imagine, the truth is that remote working is here to stay. And those that understand this will have an edge over those who don't.
Predictions of doom are so easy to make, but so rarely pan out. Remember the time when people said that the internet would destroy company culture? Or how emails would kill teamwork? The latest prediction making the rounds is that the best companies are those where people are all in the office.
I’d like to be the first to tell them that they’re wrong.
We were already on the road to change years before the pandemic- I remember, for instance, when Cisco made Webex mainstream globally, ushering in the new norm of webinar conference calls. Increasingly, thanks to the twin elements of fast internet and tech tools, more and more people want to have flexibility in terms of how they work. The pandemic has accelerated this transition, forcing many more of us to work remotely, and understand that being in the office doesn’t necessarily mean that we work better.
Granted, being in the one place has its benefits. There’s the opportunity to get creative when surrounded by colleagues. And it’s much, much easier to chase someone who is a couple of chairs down; there’s really nowhere they can run to when you need something. And there’s those who are new to the business, particularly young people, who can learn much faster, both through passive and active engagement, from their colleagues, when they’re together in an office.
But is being in an office all it’s cracked up to be? I’m sure I am not the only one who has been dragged into unnecessary meetings, sometimes for hours on end. Or the hours stuck driving there and back. And what happens when your creative juices are not flowing? I’ll happily admit that I’ve taken a power nap or three while working from home. And the commute from the bedroom to the living room via the bathroom and kitchen is so much more pleasant.
The increasing trend among multinationals is to empower their employees to make the choice between working at the office or from home. There can be resistance, especially from management who believe that office working is the best way to go. But office working isn’t all its cracked up to be. There’s the colleagues you don’t like (it’s ok to admit to this), and the lack of privacy and noise in open-plan spaces. And of course, there’s the office politics.
And if you’re an introvert, which is roughly 50% of us, these things are more than just annoying; they can quite literally hold you back- and I’m not even going to speak about those who cannot work in offices for medical reasons. Extroverts may love the office, they may feel energized by it, but it’s not for everyone. And smart leaders realize that this, and they need to find ways to make this work. Those that do will benefit from the ability to find and work with talent anywhere around the world. They’ll also save on lower office costs, which they’ll be able to reinvest in their people. Those that don’t, that insist on everyone being in the office, will lose out both on global talent as well as local talent who want to do things differently.
If you are a business leader, you are going to need to adapt, just like the rest of us. Whatever you want to imagine, the truth is that remote working is here to stay. And those that understand this will have an edge over those who don’t.
Alex Malouf is a marketing communications executive who has spent the last 17 years in the Middle East. Alex has lived across the region, in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. He is the Corporate Communications Director for the Middle East and Africa at Schneider Electric.
A journalist by training and with a cultural mix that is both European and Arabic, Alex’s expertise spans communications and media, public relations and marketing for both multinationals in the energy, technology and FMCG space as well as several Gulf-based government institutions. An entrepreneur in his own right –along with his wife, Alex founded the first business-to-business magazines in Saudi Arabia– Alex’s experience includes corporate communications, media relations and outreach, content development, crisis/ reputation management, and digital/social media. When he’s not putting pen to paper, Alex can be found advocating for the region’s media and public relations industry.
Alex is passionate about promoting sustainability in the communications sector by highlighting the industry’s potential to GCC nationals. He works with not-for-profit organizations such as the Middle East Public Relations Industry to shape and support training and awareness initiatives for both those wishing to pursue a career in public relations