As coronavirus continues to spread across the world, many companies, from Google, Facebook to Alibaba, and Baidu, are asking their employees to work-from-home as part of their social distancing response to the crisis.
SEE ALSO: China’s Nationwide Quarantine Is a Win for Productivity Apps and a Fiasco for Co-working Spaces
China, where the coronavirus first appeared, was also among first to try the work-from-home experiment. In an attempt to reduce social contacts, millions of employees in China started working remotely in the beginning of the year. According to McKinsey Digital, around 200 million people were working remotely by the end of the Chinese New Year holiday.
One of the largest video game companies, Tencent, announced that its employees would work from home until February 24. Tech companies including Alibaba and Baidu also allowed their employees to work remotely until the end of February, citing health and safety concerns.
Similarly, work-from-home was also adopted the most sensible strategy under the current pandemic situation in the United States. The Silicon Valley tech giants announced plans to reopen their offices soon but are still showcasing a ton fo flexibility in relation to remote work.
As one of the largest companies in the tech world, Google started to instruct employees to work from home in early March and was planning to let the majority of their employees work from home until the end of 2020. According to CEO Sundar Pichai, some essential staffers will be allowed back into the office in June or July, and increased safety precautions will be provided.
Like Google, Facebook employees began working remotely in March. Most of Facebook’s main offices will open on July 6 and employees will be allowed to work-from-home until the end of the year.
This unexpected twist of events spurred discussions about work-from-home as the future of work. Some of the benefits of remote work being listed include, elimination of long commutes, safety of employees’ health and more.
It’s worth to mention that Twitter is going to become the first company to offer remote work as a permanent option.
On May 12, Twitter announced that employees will have the option to continue working from home or somewhere else forever even after the pandemic. This policy, however, won’t apply to positions that require physically being in the office. Twitter’s main offices will reopen in September. Employees can choose to go back to the office after the quarantine if they want to.
“If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen. If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves,” Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s head of HR, said.
However, many companies and employees found it challenging. Working from home means there is no formal separation between work and leisure time. Also, days with a less structured schedule can lower productivity.
“There are so many distractions at home. I found myself being less productive during the day working at home but I still have to get my work done on time. So I stay up late finishing up my tasks, which leads to the lack of rest,” said Lu, an employee currently working from home full time. “Blurring the lines between work and home can pose a lot of challenges.”
In Asia, work-from-home is less common compared to the west. The loss of manager oversight and control, has prompted some resistance to remote work in Asia. During the quarantine in China, some companies requireD selfies and live-stream check-ins from their workers regularly during working hours.
No doubt advances in technology have made it possible for most employees to carry out their duties from anywhere. However, many elements such as efficient communication and proper management are curial to remote work.
“Done right, working from home can boost productivity and will be the future of work,” Yang, a senior manager at an e-commerce company said. “Done badly, it can damage work relationships and demotivate employees.”