Coronavirus Pandemic May Have Killed the Office Forever

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Facebook is the latest Silicon Valley company to permanently shift a huge chunk of its workforce to remote work.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with The Verge that the company will eventually let up to half of its workforce work remotely.

The move comes after Twitter and Square made similar announcements that workers at those companies could work from home permanently if they wished.

For many, working from home has been a blessing, cutting out commuting time and related costs while also giving employees more free time to spend with family. Silicon Valley’s shift to remote work could have consequences for employees, however.

Engadget’s Karissa Bell reported that Zuckerberg told employees that those who end up working outside the Bay Area will have their pay adjusted.

A pay cut may be the least of Silicon Valley workers’ worries in the coming years.

If companies decide an office presence is no longer necessary for a lot of their jobs, they may also wonder if they need to hire American workers at all. Skilled laborers in countries across the world with significantly lower salary requirements could offer companies reasonable job performance at a much lower rate, creating an international race to the bottom for wages.

Mental costs

Beyond the threat to salaries, the industry’s shift to remote work carries another risk: The mental health of employees. Although a notable chunk of workers prefer the work-from-home lifestyle, many others find it isolating.

A 2018 study of workers globally found that “two-thirds of remote workers aren’t engaged and over a third never get any face time with their team,” and that “only 5% always or very often see themselves working at their company for their entire career, compared to almost a third that never work remotely.”

The ongoing pandemic also puts a damper on the positives of remote work. While parents may get to see more of their children, those children are no longer physically in school, leaving many parents stressed as they juggle their own work with the childcare and education duties that schools normally handle.

Beyond the pressures of managing a family, remote work in the time of coronavirus reveals the importance of work-life balance. Without social outlets, working from home can blend too much with the rest of life, casting a pall over every day.

Digital Trends contributor and remote work veteran Shubham Agarwal sums up the overwhelming gloom of remote work in lockdown, saying: “A sense of anxiety and fear incessantly looms in the air and the monotony of staring at the same set of walls for days on end has begun to creep into my productivity. With practically no long breaks or vacations to break the fatigue of looking at screens, I feel burned out but have nowhere to go.”

Remote work has its benefits, but even those who never cared for office life may find that there’s a price to be paid.

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