The pandemic and its unrelenting variants have turned trends of remote work into a workspace revolution of sorts. Remote jobs, teleworking, and other “work from anywhere” concepts have taken over most sectors, but in particular the technology sector. Good tools and technology have allowed us to digitally transform the way we as humans interact, connect and collaborate; bypassing temporal and spatial limitations. This also holds true for reimagining how we do professional work and manage talent.
The incredible potentiality of artificial intelligence combined with the ability to harness big data has resulted in innovative advances that were due for a long time coming now. Now this setup naturally means that the way we seek, recruit, hire and manage talent has changed. Working from home, and flexible work has its advantages but also some challenges for managers that are completely uninitiated when it comes to operating form a home office.
However, that being said, there is no doubt that the real catalysis to this forward-looking era has been brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. As much as it is a grievance, a forward-looking individual cannot deny the benefits of surpassing a crisis, which obviously would not have been possible without there being a crisis in the first place. Decision-makers have been forced to make decisions in the face of adversity and the process of creative destruction has sped up manyfold. One might go as far as to think technology is just there to be harnessed, and the limiting factor is humanity’s complacency but I’d rather think of technological advances as a result of humanity’s struggle.
And the struggle we are specifically going to be talking about is the shift to working remotely. The pandemic has caused literal physical isolation, yet that has only amplified other means of staying connected and the value of human connection has arguably become much more authentic level than ever before, obviously possible due to technology. While issues like work-life balance, motivation, and mental health have been at the forefront of talent management concerns, and are very much real research has been showing positive signs. Although transitioning on such a momentous scale has caused a certain number of hiccups here and there, most people have adapted. The current era has witnessed the most agile, hybrid, and fluid workforce we have ever witnessed. And now that people have experienced the benefits of working remotely, it doesn’t seem likely that they would want to go back to their old ways. In fact, many multinational companies and corporate giants have announced some form of permanence to working from home in their new policies.
There exists a perception that many now decree to be backward, of viewing technology from a distant and negative position. Notable people have voiced their opinions on technological advances like the use of AI that describe such change as unnatural. At the core of such dissent lies the insecurity of being replaced by something one might not fully understand, something better and more capable than us. However, it’s much more productive to think of technology and humanity side by side. One has only to analyze the effects of the current pandemic to see technology as an enabler. It is true that because of technology the future will decouple the concept of work from a physical location but one also must not turn a blind eye to the alternative deepening human connections all around us. The collaboration software industry has exploded recently and that is a result of the fact that humans harness technology for their own needs rather than the idea that technology changes humans.
Coming back to the idea of decoupling the concept of work from a physical location has caused many to question whether a shared sense of community can still persist when no one’s physically nearby. We must ask ourselves whether physical nearness really is a necessary prerequisite of building company identity and a sense of culture. I don’t think so, a shared sense of identity stems from a set of values that a group of people agrees on and collaboratively work towards manifesting. People change jobs and use the exact same technology yet experience work in a very different way. Values come from the leaders and role models.
One thing of import is the fact that inequality does arise when some workers are present in person while others join them online. This creates a disparity that stems from the physical advantages that being ‘in the room’ present. Going forward in scenarios like these it would be interesting to see what workarounds are developed to combat such problems.
Perhaps, the most important thing the pandemic has decoupled is talent and physical location. Previously, the biggest obstruction to career advancement used to be geographical limitations. Well, that is no longer the case. Remote work allows companies to hire talent from anywhere in the world. Even before the pandemic, this trend was seen amongst software developers due to the nature of their work. But ever since the pandemic has happened and unemployment rates have reached an all-time low, other sectors have started to look to the wonders of a purely free-market era.
This crisis has transformed the way we do things magnanimously and it is time for us to embrace these changes and work on compounding them to maximize the benefit to our workers and our economies alike.
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