Coffee, virtual meetings, WhatsApp chats, leisure time, short nap, repeat. Remote working is a trend that’s been gaining even more popularity ever since the pandemic started. It’s a cost-efficient and safe way to work during a worldwide crisis, and WFH (Work-from-Home) has been a common norm over the past year. As the world improves its situation on the pandemic, however, a new trend of remote working is on the rise, and this will replace our WFH habit.
What is WFA?
WFA (Work-from-Anywhere) is an anti-mainstream trend that was gradually gaining popularity even before the pandemic. Think about a writer who writes her novel, a page each day, in coffee shops, public parks, or even public transportation. Any place can be the writer’s workstation, and it is not confined to a specific place. Aside from writers, some of us actually have done the same thing, but it’s just not a common norm for many jobs where our presence at a physical office is required.
The reason for a possible surge of popularity for WFA in the future is that when the situation around the pandemic gets better, people who have been stuck in the long routine of WFH will feel the urge to go to places which they used to go to or never visited before. If after the pandemic, businesses will either reopen their offices or prolong WFH policy, WFA will become a middle path for workers whose jobs require them to neither stay home nor go to office.
If you think that WFA sounds cool, probably because it is. Professor Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury in Harvard Business Review (issue Nov-Dec 2020) states that there are plenty of benefits that WFA will bring. For workers, for instance, WFA will allow them to be happier as they have more time to improve their quality of life. While there’s usually tension between business needs and those of workers, happier workers will also benefit organizations, as this increases productivity.
WFA is good for our society, too. The article further states that as WFA reduces the number of commuting, it will also significantly suppress the amount of pollution. Even if people do leave their homes to work, we predict that WFA opens up various businesses opportunities as people will spend money in irregular places. An office worker can choose to skip town, for instance, to find a quiet place to work on a project. The money he spends on food, entertainment, or accommodation will give life to local businesses.
The article also states that there will be concerns about WFA, but there are possible solutions for concerns regarding WFA. For instance, like WFH, WFA will undoubtedly create some degree of communication issues, a classic problem for remote workers. This issue, however, can be overcome through a little bit of getting used to. A company can familiarize itself “asynchronous communication”, such as letting worker work on a same Google document at different times.
Employee socialization will also be one of many problems for WFA workers. Some workers will miss the real-life interactions with colleagues, while some others will find the need to be constantly on stand-by for anyone to reach out exhausting. Addressing this, Professor Choudhury takes an example of how USPTO (a company which has been implementing WFA) schedule periodical virtual community events where workers can “socialize, discuss work, and problem-solve” together.
As 2021 starts off with great updates on the pandemic, the trend of WFA may come sooner than we expected. Whether the WFA model suits your business perfectly may depend on the type of business that you’re leading. However, if you do choose to apply WFA anytime soon, Professor Choudhury highlights the importance of management to make the trend work. Addressing concerns from communication to risk management would be necessary before you implement WFA for your businesses.
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