Blog Post

Cartoon Coffee Break: The State of Remote Work

Terry LaBan

Cartoonist and Illustrator

Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back regularly for a new ReWork cartoon.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began back in March, many employers thought that working-from-home measures would impact the productivity and efficiency of their teams. They feared that if employees were out of the office, they would act accordingly and be less invested in their work—or feel like they were on an endless vacation.

But over the past nine months, these theories have been debunked. Remote work has had an opposite effect, with most employees working harder than ever before. Productivity levels stayed the same for most companies and industries and, given the severity of the coronavirus spread, life has felt nothing like a vacation for most people.

However, the flexibility of remote work has given everyone the opportunity to re-evaluate their current living situations. While some stayed put, others have changed their home address. Since March, the popularity of this trend has grown: As of October, fourteen million Americans are toying with the idea of relocation. Employees and employers alike are realizing the benefits and complications of remote work and relocation—and how both could be here to stay, even when stay-at-home orders are no longer in effect.

The Pros and Cons of Remote Work

Employees who are enjoying their new remote work lifestyles probably plan or hope to continue doing so even after the pandemic has ended. And for these individuals, relocation is the natural next step. Remote work eliminates the need for a commute and allows employees to move where they please without leaving their company. In fact, in a recent survey of remote workers conducted by The New York Times and Morning Consult, 1 in 3 said they would move to a new city or state if remote work continued.

Employers also stand to benefit from this trend. Some companies might find that a majority of their employees prefer remote work, and might switch to a fully remote workforce as a result. In these instances, companies will no longer need to pay the rent for a physical office. What’s more, with remote work capabilities, companies will be able to access and hire global talent without facing immigration hurdles.

However, there is an equal number of concerns that arise when a company decides to go fully remote. Without a physical office space, every facet of a company’s operations moves online. This not only creates more data security risks, but it makes communication and collaboration harder. Fully remote companies will have to find new ways to encourage knowledge-sharing, brainstorming, and socializing across their teams.

How Employers Can Support With the Transition to Remote Work

To support this shift, employers need to prepare for a more permanent remote work policy. Even if most employees remain local, expect that some might not. Create an effective hybrid model that accommodates both remote and in-office employees so that everyone can collaborate and be productive—no matter their location.

Above all else, all employees—leadership, news hires, interns and HR teams alike—should be open to experimenting with new, creative approaches and technologies, like a flexible work schedule or a new internal messaging system. Meanwhile, employers should constantly be re-evaluating the tactics being used, asking themselves questions like: "What’s working? What isn’t? How can we adapt?"

With remote work, the lines between work and life are more blurred than they’ve ever been, and everyone is trying to navigate a unique situation. But as long as teams are willing to listen to each other and adapt with one another, they can improve their understanding of remote work—and learn how to best support each other.

To learn more about how to effectively manage and lead a remote team, check out this recent article from the Head of Cornerstone Studios, Summer Salomonsen, who recently had to adapt her leadership techniques to meet the needs of her newly remote team.

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