The COVID Pandemic brought about something that no worker’s union has been able to do since the adoption of the five (5) day work week in the 1930s and the birth of the “weekend”. According to a recept Pew Survey, more workers in the United States say they prefer to work remotely even though their work locations have re-opened and Covid 19 is being managed with various protocols and vaccination. In fact 61% now say they are choosing not to go into their workplace and it is not because of COVID but personal preference, much to the chagrin of some CEOs like Elon Musk.
Even when it comes to in-person work hours, many developed countries are reducing that time for workers as well (while paying them the same). The Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted a survey of several European countries and the three countries with the lowest with the shortest working week are the Netherlands, (29.5 hrs/wk). Denmark (32.5 hrs/wk) and then Norway (33.6 hrs/wk). Some countries are making the four day work week official or taking it for a test run.
Meanwhile the USA has become notorious for its work till you drop culture and workers being asked to surrender their personal time, sick leave, holidays as the norm, for zero compensation, especially due to loss of staff during COVID. However workers are quitting and leading a cultural revolution against this. Reddit is awash with, “Screw This, I Quit!” threads. Many workers quitting have gone viral on Social Media. Beyoncé’s latest dance anthem harkens to the old hippie decree to drop out before work breaks your soul. .
While many Caribbean islands are courting remote workers from abroad to live, pay taxes and support their economy, they still struggle to afford their own citizens with the privilege of working remotely. Far from being an island paradise to work in, Caribbean citizens find their large chunks of their life being wasted in gridlocked commutes in the boiling sun or flood-causing rain, which makes them show up at their job, already tired and frustrated. Those with children have an even more difficult time as they must often leave to run errands during working hours. Government Ministry offices are still very inundated with staff and red tape although the digital age is slowly making remote applications for licenses, certificates and more a reality in some islands.
The Pros Of Remote Working
The five (5) day, 40 hour, in-person work week was predicated upon gendered division of labor where it was assumed a male would be pulling that load and meanwhile a female homemaker would be handling all other household and childcare matters. That world is long gone. Most middle-income homes require two breadwinners. There are also single people and parents without anyone supporting their well-being outside the home. Often that work that can be done virtually such as research or processing of information via computer or telephone, writing or creating documents, graphics or doing digital transactions.
One of the first benefits of remote working and flexible working hours is better Work/Home Balance.
The pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture is one of the biggest challenges to society’s mental health.
- Mental Health Foundation UK, 21, September 2021
A workforce that has a healthy home life and enough personal time to recover from the stresses of work, will be more productive while at work. This is what certain developed countries have realized. Breaking employees out of a life of constant rushing from one appointment to the next increases focus, reduces mistakes and accidents and eases staff relations and customer relations because people are less short-tempered.
For creative, problem-solving jobs, the brain works best when not under the stress of cortisol and adrenaline but is relaxed and open. Better ideas emerge from staff that are not hurried and harrassed trying to get to and from work.
As fuel prices rise, the cost of commuting will get more expensive and the power of salaries to cover cost of living will go down while the cost of operating a business location requiring lights, cooling and use of several energy draining appliances will go up. It may be wise to cut down on operation/utility costs by having less staff in person.
Remote working or fewer in-person work days, reduces traffic on the road and the island’s carbon footprint.
Compensating or rewarding your employees with more time rather than a salary raise or bonus is an innovative way to go about motivating staff. .
The Cons Of Remote Working
While there are many benefits to working remotely, there are also some drawbacks. For example, one of the major disadvantages of remote work is that you may have trouble staying connected with your colleagues or team members.
If quality control and supervision is essential to your output it may be hard to control this without in-person presence at a location. Many employers fear that some employees are not going to meet deadlines or may use the their paid time for other activities, profitable or not. The Caribbean’s colonial culture is particularly authoritarian when it comes to overseer ship of workers.
Workplaces that place corporate culture high on their priority may find it harder to enforce this culture with workers scattered remotely, even though it is not unheard of.
Some questions you should ask before you make remote working or flexible hours part of your industry are:
You are going to need self-motivated, competent staff you trust to take their job seriously; know how to manage their time, solve problems and whose judgment you trust when they take initiative.
When was the last time you did tech-audit of your staff and company infrastructure? Government Ministries in particular struggled during COVID with tech illiteracy among even senior clerks, officers, school principals and administrators. While some moments have been the source of much hilarity, like Zoom meeting snafus, it is concerning that 21st Century employees are so behind on the latest tech. Training and upgrades may be in order. Your company will need the latest project management software, meeting tools, remote access to desktop apps, information sharing apps and more. Most importantly, your staff’s home internet and mobile services need to be up to par.
Here are some remote working apps you might want to explore:
If a customer has a complaint or something malfunctions, do you have a plan of action? Who is responsible? What is the chain of command even if people are not there in person? Who speaks on behalf of the company?
It is important to have regular meetings not just virtually but at least one face-to-face per month. It does not have to be about work. It can be about building morale or a time for new ideas or sharing new vision. Whatever it takes to keep the corporate culture you want to maintain going, make time for it. It works in tandem with a happier, work/life balance staff for better productivity overall.
Accela Marketing has been functionally virtual since 2020. The physical office is visited and used only as needed by staff. During this time of virtual servicing of clients, the company has successfully launched a regional bank in six (6) markets, handled international sporting events in multiple islands, conducted regional research, handled Crisis Communications and major video productions for the Ministry of Health and much more. It can be done!