By: Lauri Haav, Managing Director, e-Residency
The last 18 months have undoubtedly had a profound effect on how we think about and do work. A dramatic shift in values has persisted in the wake of the government’s initial stay-at-home order, and reluctant CEO’s have had their hands forced when it comes to trusting their employees to work independently. The relationship between decision makers and their workforce has historically been a key limiting factor in the number of businesses running remote or hybrid working models, despite studies suggesting higher levels of productivity and less sick days for those granted the privilege.
The conversation about remote working is not new, despite COVID-19’s being accredited with driving the work-from-home ‘revolution’. Of course, the pandemic gave rise to the largest ever human trial, but appetites for more flexibility and a better work-life balance far pre-dated it.
What the pandemic has done is catalyse the conversation about ‘borderless’ working models. In Estonia, we have been engaged in discourse around the ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle and virtual company creation and administration since 2014, but the pandemic marks another oncoming paradigm shift in the way the world thinks about work by taking this conversation into the mainstream.
People have been liberated of their ties to the physical workspace of an office, so why not also cut their ties to any particular territory, too?
Sign Of The Times
Over the last two decades, technology has come to play an indispensable role in our working lives. Prior to this, the idea of being able to carry out what was required of you – from home – would have sounded ludicrous.
So really, it’s astonishing that it has taken a global pandemic for decision makers to really invest in remote working.
In 2019, a report by Buffer (in partnership with Doist, Hubstaff, Remote-How, and others) was carried out into the state of remote work, and revealed 99% of remote workers surveyed wanted to do continue doing so (at least some of the time) for the rest of their careers. Now, 18 months after COVID hit and with a much higher number of remote workers operating around the globe, 97% of employees don’t want to return to the office full-time.
Unfortunately, many CEOs were previously skeptical about the productivity levels of their employees when not in the office. The technological innovation to power a hybrid or remote work model for most organisations was not the problem; culture was. The pandemic changed all this when it took away most company’s choice.
Remote working models give people the chance to reinstate a better work-life balance – one that is sorely needed for the likes of the young employees of banking firm Goldman Sachs, who asked for an 80-hour week cap earlier this year. Criticism of this ilk has arisen where companies have failed to draw up adequate boundaries between the working day and leisure time. This has been one of a number of key challenges.
Cybersecurity has also become a much more prominent issue, with the pool of targets for attacks growing exponentially almost overnight. From unemployment fraud, to email phishing, these attacks have become relentless. Even so, McKinsey has suggested that cybersecurity service providers are shifting their priorities to helping companies maintain business continuity, support remote work, and plan for transitioning to a post-pandemic world.
Technological innovation has been hailed as the silver lining of the pandemic, with remote workplace collaboration tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack meeting overnight spikes in demand. Companies have also undergone rapid digital transformation journeys to adjust to the pressure placed on existing digital infrastructure. Businesses globally are now operating out of the cloud, and are built to support remote working beyond the pandemic.
Beyond the pandemic
Employers have a chance to access a wider talent pool by going fully remote, as well as save money on office rentals. The setup is mutually beneficial, reduces emissions and increases opportunities. Remote working is undoubtedly here to stay, despite the associated challenges – this much we can see.
We can also be certain that the tide is turning even further, with an incredible growing appetite for more relaxed rules around borderless working, suggesting the ‘digital nomad visas’ of the pandemic are likely to become more commonplace.
These working-visa initiatives, introduced in 2020, demonstrated quite clearly that relaxing laws around working abroad can benefit workers and simultaneously create new revenue streams for participating countries to make up for lost tourism income. This encourages visitors to stay for a number of months rather than days.
The future of work and business is more exciting than it has ever been, and as the world continues to open up once more, people will continue to grow tired of being tied to one physical location.