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How “Work from Home” has become “Work from Wherever”

By Alex Molokwu

Lockdown restrictions has caused many to review their working structures. Zoom and Teams online meetings and networking has become the norm. It has enabled people to feel that they can work from anywhere. Friends of mine have move back to their home countries from London, not only to save money but also to be near friends and family. I have had meetings with people on ski resorts, beaches and even boats. The only thing people need is reasonable internet connection and the technology.  

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We have seen a large movement of people away from expensive cities, to cheaper country rural locations where you will get more space for your money. Some companies will be exploring reducing employees’ pay to reflect where their staff work. Some are. Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, has said that as much as half of his company’s staff won’t work from an office in the next decade. Other tech firms, such as Microsoft Corp. and Twitter Inc., have also embraced more flexible work arrangements. Some employers, like Deutsche Bank AG, are envisioning “hybrid” schedules where employees spend part of their work week at home and part at an office. Companies have said remote work might help them recruit and retain a more diverse workforce and boost productivity. 

In Australia, workers have pushed out to semi-rural locations, driving regional house prices up 6.9% in 2020, three times more than in the country’s big cities. In Europe, border closures and the introduction of travel bans between countries inhibited movement to more scenic spots. One exception is the flight of many eastern Europeans from pricey cities such as London back home to the Czech Republic, Romania and Poland, reversing years of migration in the other direction. 

Mckinsey and Co have done a detailed study on remote working and which sectors will benefit. More than 20 percent of the workforce could work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as they could if working from an office. If remote work took hold at that level, that would mean three to four times as many people working from home than before the pandemic and would have a profound impact on urban economies, transportation, and consumer spending, among other things. I believe hybrid working conditions where people can work from home and also come into the office for a few days a week will be the normal. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that working remotely at scale is achievable, and for many employees, desirable on a full time and sustained basis. A recent PwC Survey highlighted 84% of employees feel able to perform their role just as effectively when working remotely as they would in the office and 42% of companies are allowing assignments to start via remote working from the home country. 

With the vaccine rollout being taken up by people we may see companies support staff with flexible work structures. But implementation will provide two levels of challenge for organisations. First, around how to attract and retain talent against a new expectation of flexible working while still ensuring business continuity. 

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