At the beginning of this year, no one would have thought that the next months would bring a revolution in terms of work organization and business management. Due to the pandemic threat, the vast majority of companies moved to home offices. Now, when we are concerned about the next wave of the illness, we fear the vision of further weeks spent working from home. Is the business able to function remotely?
In many cases, working from home has been successful. Nowadays, when we have access to the Internet, we can count on technological support and IT solutions, it is not as complicated as a decade ago. Moving a business to a home office is not a major problem for most companies that – even having their own offices – provide services to clients remotely, e.g. tax offices, advertising agencies, translation offices or architects. Even some retail companies have smoothly transitioned to e-commerce, thus facing adversity.
However, problems may arise in companies where employees use solutions that require additional, specialized security on a daily basis. Such are required, for example, in situations where data protection is at stake, and office workers use computers equipped with specialized software on a daily basis. So moving work to the home office overnight is not such an obvious matter, because home computers or personal laptops do not have the required software, and the Internet connections that we usually use for home use – lack appropriate security.
However, there are many industries that cannot be transferred to the home office. These are businesses that require direct contact with the client or consists of customer visits in the facility. If we are faced with another need to lockdown employees at home, companies that provide medical, training or fitness services will have a real problem, but even if these can still be imagined in a version performed from the comfort of your home and some of them managed to do so in a limited scope during the pandemic, it is impossible to imagine catering or hotel services provided from home.
Another problem faced by companies that work remotely is the recruitment of new employees. While they coped to some extent with the interview process, organizing the assessment center and online document exchange, the process of implementing a newly hired employee into the company’s life and their scope of duties is very difficult in the absence of their personal presence in the company. A newly hired person in a real office can usually count on the support of colleagues or superiors, which is not available when working online, it takes much longer to correct any mistakes. In any recruitment process, the first three months of the employee’s work are the most important, and the next three usually decide whether they will stay with the company for more than a year. From the employer’s perspective, remote work may therefore turn out to be very expensive in the long term, as it does not facilitate supporting new employees and creates the risk of high turnover.
Above all, however, a person is a social being, and working remotely from home deprives them of the natural bonds that work in the office provides. No conversation via a messenger, even with the possibility of using a webcam, will replace personal contacts and meetings in a real environment. Scientists and doctors are sounding the alarm today that the so-called “lockdown” had a very negative impact on people, the number of cases of depression, anxiety and neurosis caused by prolonged isolation has increased. The lack of interpersonal contacts also adversely affects physical health, making it more susceptible to internal diseases.
Hence, can the business be moved to a home office? Some, for a shorter period, yes. However, in the long run, this is a very disadvantageous solution for both the company and its employees. While the solution consisting in partially combining remote work with work at the company’s headquarters is possible and with the implementation of certain procedures – will take place without major harm to the company, it is not possible to conduct it completely remotely in companies consisting of more than one employee.