Due to Coronavirus, Will Remote and Distributed Work Become the Future for Office Workers?
In Europe and beyond, the coronavirus outbreak could lead to a surge toward remote office workers.
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From the tumbling stock market to suspended flights, the effects of the coronavirus are felt worldwide as frantic efforts are made to prevent a possible global pandemic. The novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has claimed the lives of thousands people from more than 100,000 confirmed cases. No continent has been spared so far, with the fear that the situation could get out of hand in Africa.
As efforts are made to contain the disease, companies and businesses are playing their part by allowing employees to work from home. Is the coronavirus outbreak the event that lays solid ground for remote and distributed office workers?
The effects of coronavirus, so far.
The world cannot ignore the effects of the coronavirus which has disrupted global activities. According to UNESCO, schools and universities across the world have implemented or announced closure, impacting hundreds of millions of young people.
And maybe this is just the beginning.
The fears of coronavirus have unsettled investors' nerves as the global stock markets took a steep drop. The DOW tumbled 1,191 points on Feb. 27, its worst one-day-drop of points in history. Stocks had their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis. New cases of coronavirus in Italy led to the European stocks nosediving. London's FTSE index fell 3.2 percent on Feb. 28. The Asian stocks plummeted on March 10, with the Shanghai composite index sliding 2.3 percent. The key index in Taiwan dropped 1.8 percent while those in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore are down 4.1 percent.
Events and conferences have been canceled or forced to go-ahead behind closed doors. The SXSW March event was called off for the first time in 34 years after the City of Austin canceled the conference. The ramifications of the call-off were instant. SXSW LLC, the company behind SXSW events, was forced to lay off a third (out of 175) employees and left counting the money it is going to lose. Attendees and exhibitors have also been left high and dry.
Other major events to be canceled due to coronavirus include GSMA's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Google's I/O Developer Conference, Facebook's F8 Conference, Microsoft's MVP Summit, and several soccer matches. The Japan 2020 Olympics Games could be postponed for one to two years, while the Torch Lighting ceremony will go ahead in Tokyo without public attendance.
Airline companies have been hit hard as countries suspend flights from affected regions. Italy, the second-worst hit country after China, is on lockdown as the death toll spiraled from 366 to 463 in one day. The country's Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte said it is 'best' for citizens to stay at home as the number of infections and deaths grows.
Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are asking their employees in some U.S. states to work from home if possible. Amazon employees based in New York and New Jersey have been asked to perform their official duties from their homes. Social media giant Facebook has closed a Seattle office after one of its contractors contracted the coronavirus. All of Facebook's Seattle employees can work from home until the end of March.
Remote working to the test.
Could working from home/remote be the future trend for employees? Huge parts of China, Italy, Japan, and South Korea are or have been under lockdown. It affects the income of the working class. But it also offers new opportunities for working from home.
As the post-mortem of the outbreak will be conducted, the main agenda will be the future preparedness of companies in case a similar global pandemic outbreak strikes again. Big companies are now endorsing remote working as a workaround solution for such events. Why would they stop this trend even when the emergency is gone? The trickle-down effect of this will see small to medium-sized businesses following in the footsteps of big companies, or at least, test the feasibility of remote working.
Employers may not favor remote workers because they feel that the workers will slack as there is no one to supervise them. This is not entirely true. Some tools provide smooth interaction between remote workers and their employees. Companies might opt to adopt a mix of on-site and remote workers to ensure productivity while reducing overhead expenses. Employees can spend more time with their families as they don't have to commute to and from work.
It is unknown when and how the coronavirus outbreak will be contained. With the World Health Organization (WHO) warning that the possibility of a global pandemic is real, remote working could be the only way to get office work done. There is a future possibility of big companies incorporating remote work partially in their work models.
Wrapping it up.
Once the dust has settled, there is more to ponder upon. And not just counting the cost of this outbreak but how to prevent future ramifications in case a global catastrophe strikes again. Some companies have performed exceedingly well with remote workers. The coronavirus outbreak, for all its disruption to the global economy and stability, could be the catalyst for the future of remote and distributed workers.