Re-Imagining Effective Work

The Short-Term Blip in Remote Working

As COVID-19 began spreading across Europe and the United States in early March 2020, many firms had to enable remote working arrangements for employees suddenly. Working out of traditional shared office locations was discouraged due to the likelihood of spreading or catching COVID-19. Added risks of exposure were threats to those using public transportation to and from the office. Vendors of remote working tools—who have been around for a long time and have offered similar free usage in previous emergencies—were quick to offer free use of their services in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people found themselves suddenly bereft of their usual office facilities and had to create something of a productive workspace from their home quickly.

It won’t last. The change is too much too quickly for the vast majority of organisations, managers and employees. As soon as the pandemic is over, people will revert. The uplift in remote working will quickly disappear, and the tools provided for free just as quickly abandoned. While COVID-19 is a massive trigger for change in the short-term, remote working is just a band-aid. It’s a surface change only in the location in which people work, forced by an external environmental factor.

Microsoft itself, actually, provides the best example of why the change will be only short-term. Microsoft currently offers the most widely adopted suite of tools that enable remote working, including Microsoft Teams. Even as the vendor of Microsoft Teams (and the broader Office 365 suite), Microsoft hasn’t transitioned previously to a widespread embrace of remote working. It has to in response to COVID-19, but its buildings and campuses around the world emphasise working together face-to-face, and its employees often move to new cities to be close to those office locations. Its extreme short-term measures for remote working will peter out when the threat is gone.