Remote Work One Year Later: What Have We Learned?


March 11 marks a year since the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. In a matter of days, companies worldwide were shutting their offices indefinitely and instructing employees to work from home. As we approach the one-year mark of working virtually, it is a great time to reflect on our workplaces as millions of workers are still working from home. Some embrace this change; others cannot wait to return to an office setting. It is safe to say our workplaces have been forever changed by a year of working remotely.

Some administrative roles, such as receptionists, have been abolished or replaced with technology. Others, for example, Information Technology specialists, have seen a higher demand, while many roles saw a shift to working without borders.

“At BOWEN, we recognized that organizations started hiring workers beyond where they physically operate. We expanded our geographical presence as well and recruited candidates Canada-wide for remote work. Roles like IT, Finance and Accounting have become flexible when working remotely as they are not restricted to a single location,” says Julian Hallett, Director, Corporate Development.

There have been many learnings – not just from the logistics perspective on how to work from home, but also from the mental and emotional toll the pandemic has taken or everyone. The boundary between work and personal lives has become blurred. It is common for workers to juggle multiple things at once. According to new research, remote work has led to a 2.5-hour increase in the average working day.

Establishing a healthy work-from-home routine is vital to reduce a negative impact on one’s mental health. There is no single solution that will work for everyone, but it is worth recognizing what you like about your daily routine and what you would like to change. Whether it is taking regular breaks throughout the day or taking lunch away from the desk, these activities can make a significant difference in reducing anxiety, stress, and even burnout.

Here is what we have learned over the last 12 months:

  1. It is the results that matter. In traditional workplaces, workers spent eight hours at their desks. However, sitting at a desk does not always mean productivity. Employees have proven that work still gets done without constant supervision.
  2. Working a standard eight-hour day may not be the best schedule for everyone. While there are certain expectations when attending meetings during business hours, employees can manage their hours according to their lifestyles. Some are early risers, others are night-owls, and they prefer doing the work when it suits them most.
  3. In-person collaboration and gatherings are an important part of the company’s culture. Opportunities to build social connections diminish when working remotely. It becomes difficult for leaders in an organization to notice burnout, feelings of isolation, or other signs of stress. Make a habit of checking in with your team members more often and make a conscious effort to connect on a personal level.
  4. There is a more fluid workforce taking shape with companies blending their full-time employees with more contingent workers. 70 per cent of executives polled in a recent McKinsey survey indicated that they will be hiring more contractors to augment their skills requirements to give them flexibility. 
  5. Make People Matter. For BOWEN, this slogan is not only about our clients and candidates. We prioritize our people. It has become increasingly important to keep our colleagues healthy and engaged by offering work-life flexibility.

It is hard to predict what the future holds for post-pandemic solutions, but one thing is clear – remote work is here to stay. Some companies will remain 100% remote; others will take a hybrid approach. Some companies, however, will want everyone to return to a pre-pandemic office setting. What is best for you? While business needs for each organization vary, opportunities for remote-work flexibility will attract a diverse and skilled workforce.