Working remotely may be the future

Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, providing people with new ways of engaging with their work and interacting with each other. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies all around the world to see exactly how effective working from home can be, and some companies adapted easily to the change, while others have struggled and failed.

It has been a year since countries first entered self-isolation, and slowly things are starting to get back to normal—or at least the “new normal.” Things will begin to open up, letting people start working in-person again, especially once the vaccine is more widely distributed, but students graduating now or in the next few years might find themselves with a much wider variety of options if they would like to work from home, now that companies have been forced to put it to the test.

Joel Bigley, assistant professor of business, said that post-pandemic policies will depend on how the CEO of the particular company feels about remote work.

“There are leaders who are biased towards having people work in the facility, and there are other leaders who are biased towards people having the opportunity to work remotely,” Bigley said. “An example of this is a familiar company called Yahoo. Before the pandemic policies, the CEO of Yahoo said they need to come and work in the office, and Yahoo previously had a culture where people worked remotely — it was a part of their culture. People had to move into the office, and it turned out there was a lot of turnover because of that choice, because people had established their routines, and they had figured out how to be productive in the environment in which they were working, and so they weren’t willing to make the change, so it caused a lot of turnover.”

Bigley also said many costs can be reduced by having employees work from their homes, though some CEOs might be concerned about their employees losing some productivity.

Julia Miller, junior kinesiology major, said she is concerned for people who work in fields that need to be more hands-on.

“I feel like a lot of people won’t necessarily be properly trained because they had to face a year of school online, and it affected a lot of people because they don’t understand what is being taught,” Miller said. “Face-to-face interaction is really important. I feel like working remotely, things don’t get done as efficiently. My major is very hands-on and you can’t really learn hands-on stuff through a Zoom call.”

Bigley said students need to be prepared for working virtually, at least partially, for most fields of work, and that pandemic policies have helped students prepare for that future.

“With the recent season of online studies, students have been able to not only work and go to class virtually, but they have also worked with other people in study groups, other students, maybe some other colleagues, and they’ve done that without being face-to-face,” Bigley said. 

“So through this experience, they have acquired many of those
skills that they will probably continue to use in the new normal, which will include a lot of virtual
activities,” Bigley said. “So the recent situation with the pandemic policy has actually forced students who may have not done it before to acquire these skills and
engage in this virtual environment, and these skills, I believe,
will help them be effective in the next step in their career.”

Arturs Medveds, sophomore kinesiology major, said he thinks companies will return to working in person once the pandemic is cleared, although it may take some time to fully recover.

“My career, (the pandemic) probably won’t affect, but others, definitely,” Medveds said. “If people hang out in some restaurants, those fields it would affect, but not for mine. When COVID ends, it will go back to the way things used to be. Of course, it will be harder to start, to redo everything. Maybe they will have some losses, but everyone will get back. If people want to go hang out, wanted to go to cinemas, or to hang out and eat somewhere, those fields will
recover. For some fields, it will be hard, but they will
learn how.”

Bigley said that students should expect things to continue to change at a rapid pace and to be ready to
adapt to any changes the future brings.

“Things are changing faster than they have ever changed before,” Bigley said. “So, regardless of being virtual or not being virtual, change is guaranteed to happen. Change will probably happen faster and it will probably be more radical than it has been, so it’s more important that students are equipped to adjust to changes and actually thrive with the changes that are happening and are going to happen.” 

“What they are, we don’t know necessarily, but what we do know is that change pace is going to increase, and the things that students are going to have to accommodate for will probably be more difficult than what they have been over the last year or so,” Bigley said.

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