The future of remote working has been a source of debate for a couple of years now, ever since the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic were eased and workplaces returned to relative normality.
While many companies embraced the “new normal” of remote and hybrid work environments, others chose to shift their operations back to pre-pandemic ways, encouraging employees to return to the office instead.
Daphne Grech Cumbo, a Corporate Wellness Trainer and Wellness Coach at UP, on Thursday affirmed that businesses remain conflicted over which approach is best to take for the benefit of both the employees and the company.
To best illustrate this, she called upon the news that Zoom, the video communications company “whose success is due to remote working”, is “killing remote working” by ordering its staff to return to the office last month. In doing so, it is following in the footsteps of other major companies, such as X (previously known as Twitter), Amazon, and Google, among many others.
“Globally, seven in 10 companies have changed their policies in favour of a return to office,” Ms Grech Cumbo explained, before adding that employees have now become less reluctant to return to the physical workplaces.
She highlighted that studies have shown that data input workers who wanted to work from home were “surprisingly more unproductive when they did exactly what they wanted, work from home”, while other research has encouraged the implementation of remote or hybrid work environments, thus producing somewhat “contradicting results”.
Ms Grech Cumbo added that Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, Tesla Inc CEO, and X CTO, earlier this year had said that remote working for tech workers is “morally wrong” when their service worker colleagues still need to show up physically.
Frederik Maris, EMEA Head of Zoom, had attributed the company’s return to office policy to a growing demand from some employees who expressed their desire to have an office in their area, and a move to strengthen engagement in a crucial time of innovation, change and growth for the company, Ms Grech Cumbo said.
“Another factor which we seem to take less notice of nowadays is the impact of the work from home culture on our wellbeing, which as we all know, highly affects our performance and productivity,” she remarked.
“When the world was suddenly forced to stay home to work, play or otherwise, mental health issues rose tremendously, highly fuelled by increased loneliness and blurred work and personal boundary lines,” she added.
However, she also pointed out that other people found more personal time due to their new remote working environment, helping them achieve “more balance in their life and as a result a higher level of wellbeing”, having a positive outcome on their work.
Ms Grech Cumbo thus questioned why the future of work structure which was envisioned a few years ago is now being challenged.
“Is working from home no longer producing higher performance employees? Is the lack of social connection taking a toll on morale and individual wellbeing? Are we getting lazy and comfortable not needing to leave our home to work?” she said.
She also asked whether the effectiveness of working from home is “unique” to each individual, having completely contrasting effects to other people.
Ms Grech Cumbo has various years of experience in business coaching, having worked at UP for more than seven years. She is also a Manager at international coaching organisation Vistage Malta. She states that she enjoys seeing people “investing in their personal and professional development”, leading to them “raising their game both in business and in life”.
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