Last year I sought to highlight the growing number of professionals embracing remote working, inspired by the distributed workforce model advocated by Auttomatic’s CEO, Matt Mullenweg.
Little did I know that less than a year later, millions of us around the world would face the prospect of being asked to work from home, for an indefinite period of time, for the first time in order to minimise the spread of COVID-19.
A record number of us are working from home.
The number of people in the UK who regularly work from home
In the United Kingdom, which will celebrate a National Work from Home Day on 15 May, the TUC (a UK trade union) has reported that by 2018 over 6% of the entire UK workforce was regularly working from home, a total of 1.7 million people, with every industry impacted.
If you contrast that with the 1.3 million people who regularly worked from home in the UK in 2008, this represents a rise of in excess of 25% over a decade.
Meanwhile, the Australia Bureau of Statistics has reported that over 30% of all employed persons in Australia now regularly work from home.
Even before the onset of COVID-19, working from home had become evermore commonplace.
In 2003, Hong Kong faced a similar crisis to the one the world faces today. That year, 299 people in Hong Kong lost their lives following the outbreak of a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and extraordinary measures for that time were taken and lessons learnt on how to deal with future epidemics.
Fast forward to January of this year and, following the declaration of an outbreak of a novel coronavirus, the local government responded swiftly by asking all workers in the public and private sectors to work from home.
Not all businesses were prepared for such a decision to have their workforces work remotely, but whilst the decision had an immediate and material impact on supply chains and the economy, as well as daily life (with school closures, reduced government services and the panic-buying of consumer staples such as toilet roll and rice), most businesses and professionals willingly heeded the government’s advice.
What Hong Kong can prove is we have nothing to fear about remote working. Sure, some industries and jobs cannot be done remotely, but at least for those who are typically office-based a sense of pragmatism and decisiveness set in.
Unsurprisingly, the businesses which rose to the challenge:
This resulted in teams feeling empowered, trusted and capable of rising to the challenge individually.
Drawing from experiences in Hong Kong where government advice around working from home has remained in place for over a month, the emphasis is on having the right working environment and tools, with a myriad of ways in which to be able to effectively work from home thereafter.
It takes time to feel comfortable working from home and you’ll learn over time what works best for you as well as what tools and resources you need.
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