Future of Work: Facing the Challenges of Pandemic Remote Work Culture

July 12, 2021 2:22 am || By

Due to the Covid-19 Virus outbreak, various countries have implemented lockdown and social restrictions to lessen physical interaction. This has resulted in the unimaginable change within numerous practices of society, including working methods. Employers are forced to accept alternative working methods by practicing social distancing at work or working remotely to minimize virus transmission risk. The working remotely concept has been the subject of discussion among researchers in the past ten years but immediately applied as one of the alternative strategies for many institutions to respond Covid-19 attack.[i] The world has been in a pandemic mode for almost a year and a half, and this is the time to evaluate the existing remote work culture. Was it compelling enough for both employers and employees? What is the downside of remote working, and how to face that?

The starting point of remote working was using zoom and google meet as the online meeting platform. As time goes by, the new model and support tools of remote work occur, such as ‘unipos app’ to recognize and reward exemplary employee behavior through a peer-to-peer bonus system. Other apps such as ‘Workvivo’ (the employee communication platforms to finish tasks), ‘Well Being App’ (an app to support and supervise employee’s mental well-being). There are various advantages of remote working in terms of time efficiency, flexibility, and the scale of employee productivity. Research shows that businesses lose $600 billion a year to workplace distractions and that remote workers are 35% to 40% more productive than physically exist in the worksite.[ii] It leads to a massive transition from the conventional way to work to remote work, even post-pandemic. That is proven in a survey of company leaders conducted by Gartner, which found that 80% plan to allow employees to work at least part of the time remotely after the pandemic and 47% will allow employees to work from home full time. [iii] In a PwC survey of 669 CEOs, 78% agree that remote type of work will stay for the long-term.[iv]The current and expected trend shows that remote work already transforms into a typical working culture.

Remote working is a weapon with two edges; First, it has various benefits, as mentioned above. [v]Second, studies indicated that remote work could be challenging for many employees compared to working at the office despite all of the benefits.[vi] The first common remote-work pitfalls are the poor communication between the employee. In comparison, face-to-face communication is considered high bandwidth because individuals can transmit and receive the most significant amount of information in a given period, resulting in many tasks getting done. [vii] A study found that a face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than using an email.[viii] Indeed, this communication problem affects teamwork between the employees. In addition, these also reduce the peer support network, which increased stress and mental health problems within the employee.

Moreover, technical problems exist while implementing remote work. One of the problems is caused by the technology knowledge gap within the employees, specifically in Indonesia. Not to mention the lack of supporting tools which are usually not provided by the companies. Based on research which conducted by Nexthink, 38% of employees had issues with VPN access to critical software, 37% had problems with Wi-fi connectivity and reliability, and 35% had challenges using video conferencing apps. [ix] The poor infrastructure and the knowledge gap most likely affect the quality of employee’s work.

The next important thing to be understood, especially by employers, is the legal aspect of remote work. In most cases, remote workers have an unclear boundary between work and life, resulting in labor exploitation. How far the companies have the responsibility for that? Until now, there is no specific regulation of remote working in Indonesia since the respective Labor Laws do not distinguish between workers right who work remotely and those workers who work at the official workplace.[x] Furthermore, the legal framework of the fulfillment of remote worker’s rights is generally based on Law Number 13/2003 Concerning Manpower and the agreement between the employer and employees itself. Without the specific regulation, some questions should be answered. First, related to wage and hours laws, how do non-exempt employees manage timekeeping? Second, regarding workers’ compensation, if there is an accident while an employee working remotely, are they covered under worker’s compensation? The answers to those questions depend on the agreement of both parties, employers, and employees. However, no regulation accommodated the minimum content that a remote employment contract must include. Take a look at Brazil’s labor legal framework. Article 3 of the Decree 884 of 2012 regulates the minimum content that remote employment contract must include the service conditions (the technological needs and environment required to carry out the service), the day and schedules (the number of times the remote employee must carry out the activities to keep proper working hours), and liability regarding working tools.[xi] The aim is to strike a balance between employers’ and employees’ rights.

To conclude, few things should be done to tackle the downsides of remote work culture. First, it is better to apply the hybrid working instead of completely go for the remote type of working after the pandemic. Without the ‘healthy’ environment of work, it is impossible to create such excellent outputs. Second, the government must improve internet-related infrastructure and accommodate a specific regulation to protect employers’ and remote workers’ rights. Lastly, it is our responsibility to enhance digital literacy skills to close the IT knowledge gap.

Author: Nadya Olga Aletha
Editor: Sri Handayani Nasution

[i] Mustajab, D., et. al. (2020). Working From Home Phenomenon as an Effort to Prevent Covid-19 Attacks and Its Impacts on Work Productivity, The International Journal of Applied Business, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 14. Available at: <http://dx.doi.org/10.20473/tijab.V4.I1.2020.13-21> [Accessed 21 June 2021]

[ii] Courtney, E. Remote Work Statistics: Navigating the New Normal. Available at <https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/remote-work-statistics/> [Accessed 21 June 2021]

[iii] Golden, R. (2020). Gartner: Over 80% of Company Leaders Plan to Permit Remote Work After Pandemic. Available at <https://www.hrdive.com/news/gartner-over-80-of-company-leaders-plan-to-permit-remote-work-after-pande/581744/> [Accessed 21 June 2021]

[iv] PricewaterhouseCoopers (2020). How Business Can Emerge Stronger. Available at: <https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/ceo-agenda/ceo-panel-survey-emerge-stronger.pdf> [Accessed 22 June 2021]

[v] Mostafa, Bassant Adel. (2021). The Effect of Remote Working on Employees Wellbeing and Work-Life Integration during Pandemic in Egypt, International Business Research, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 42. Available at < http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/ibr/article/view/0/44794> [Accessed 22 June 2021]

[vi] Ibid, pp. 43

[vii] Lowy, J (2020). Overcoming Remote Work Challenges. Available at <https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/overcoming-remote-work-challenges/> [Accessed 22 June 2021]

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Nexthink (2020) The World of Work Rests on The Shoulders of IT Teams. Available at <https://www.nexthink.com/resource/market-survey-infographic-2020/> [Accessed 22 June 2021]

[x] Interact Law Members from Europe, Asia, and South & Central America. (2020) Remote Working Legislation. Interact Law. pp. 29. Available at <https://d1qmdf3vop2l07.cloudfront.net/rad-sky.cloudvent.net/hash-store/914e07fc4574d4f23d391c502b6a4473.pdf> [Accessed 222 June 2021]

[xi] Ibid, pp. 46