As some parts of the US see new spikes in COVID-19 cases, the future of the workplace seems uncertain. Predicting what companies will do in the coming months is difficult, but a total return to work for all employees doesn't seem likely.

Because of video conferencing and other collaborative, unified communications technology, the transition to remote work went more smoothly than expected. As a result, we predict that many organizations will adopt a hybrid work culture in which employees spend part of their time in the office and the remainder working remotely.  A poll from Gartner supports this: It found 48% of employees are likely to work at least part of the time in the post-pandemic world remotely, compared to just 30% before the crisis began.

According to research from McKinsey, 80% of employees said they enjoy working from home -- but that doesn't mean everyone will appreciate it over the long term. Some people who miss the in-person interactions of the office are longing to return.

As organizations around the globe plan for the future, most of us will likely be making big decisions about whether we'll continue to work remotely, in the office, or in some combination of the two. For this reason, we've gathered the advantages and disadvantages of remote work in a post-pandemic world.

The Advantages and Challenges of Remote Work

As with most things in life, working remotely has pros and cons. When deciding whether it's a good fit for you, it's best to look at all these.

Remote Work Advantages

1. Say goodbye to the commute

One of the main benefits of working from home is the ability to roll out of bed and reach your "office" in just a few steps. The time gained by not having to drive to and from work can be spent any way you choose – a later alarm, a solid workout, or extra time with your family. Commuting can also add stress to the day, especially when you waste time sitting in traffic, or your train is delayed. Removing this daily stressor is good for your overall health and well-being, something we can all use in this anxious time.

2. Say hello to more flexibility

When you work in a physical office, your hours are rigid. Your day begins when you arrive and ends when you leave. Remote working gives you the option to create a more flexible schedule. You can hop on a video conference to discuss a new project with team members and a client, then take a break to walk the dog or have lunch with your spouse. If you're a morning person, you can sign on early and crank out work when you're at your best, take a long mid-day break, and return to work later in the day. Communications technology that offers a unified experience across all devices and a mobile-first design make it easy to monitor work items whenever you step away.

3. Become a productivity powerhouse

According to McKinsey, 41% of employees said they were more productive working remotely during the pandemic. That's a definite plus for organizations. That's a definite plus for organizations. Unified communications technology, such as collaborative workspaces and desktop sharing, enables employees to exchange ideas and files just as easily as if they were sitting right next to each other. Those who no longer have a commute can use that time for work and even get an earlier start on the day. Some employees find home quieter than the office, with fewer distractions and interruptions by co-workers. With the right setup at home, productivity can soar.

4. Get comfortable

While many jokes have been made about conducting video conferences in your pajamas, comfort is a definite advantage to remote work. If you don't have video calls on a given day, you can wear whatever you like. You can save money on dry cleaning and be more productive when you're truly comfortable. And while we recommend dressing appropriately when you'll be on-screen with colleagues or clients, many people have embraced a more casual style of dress during the forced remote-work period.

5. Stay safe

Uncertainties surround the coronavirus. Will it mutate? Are people who've recovered from it immune to a recurrence? When will a vaccine become available? Many feel safer working from home until we have answers to such questions. Fortunately, unified communications technology makes remote work possible in the long term. Video conferences keep face-to-face communication alive. One-to-one and group messaging, real-time screen sharing, and the ability to join meetings in a single click promote collaboration and open communication – even when employees are physically distant from each other.

Remote Work Challenges

Of course, nothing's perfect, and remote work comes with some downsides. We explored its disadvantages, and here's a recap of the top five:

1. A fading team culture

Socialization plays a crucial role in creating cohesive teams. When you only work remotely, it can become challenging to maintain a bond with your colleagues. Technology allows companies to continue promoting team unity (virtual coffee breaks and team trivia meets are great examples). Still, it takes extra time and planning to ensure virtual events stay within the wayside.

2. The struggle to innovate

Our best ideas come while chatting with a co-worker in the break room. Maintaining this type of creative exchange and innovation can be difficult when everyone works in their own private space. Technology allows employees to engage in video brainstorming sessions, and employees can always get on a group call to share thoughts and ideas. However, companies should plan these sessions and encourage participation. It may take time for team members to adjust to these new ways of interacting to keep the creative juices flowing.

3. Feelings of isolation

Some of us may enjoy the extra time at home with our spouses and kids, but working remotely can be extremely lonely for those who live alone. Without the casual interpersonal interactions you normally have at the office, you may feel your entire life revolves around work. Feelings of depression and loneliness aren't uncommon, and sitting at your computer all day with little to no human interaction isn't good for the spirit. Video conferences, instant messages, and audio calls can help battle isolation, but companies must also provide the appropriate mental health resources for employees struggling with these issues. These workers are prime candidates for getting back into the physical office as soon as possible, even if it's only with a hybrid model.

4. Increased anxiety

A survey by the Harvard Business Review discovered that employees reported higher levels of stress (67%) and anxiety (57%) during March and April of this year when remote work was in full effect. We're in an extraordinary situation; employees are worried about job security, financial stability, and physical health. Workers with children at home have been forced to juggle remote work with virtual school. Others may be worried about exposing elderly parents to the virus while trying to provide care. Daily, the news presents more information, making it difficult to plan and keep a positive outlook. The lack of personal contact with remote work only adds to the anxiety since employees no longer have casual breaks and conversations that can lighten their mood and create a sense of hope.

5. The never-ending workday

Remote workers often need help to stick to set hours. The lines between work and personal life become blurred or even disappear. Many employees put in longer hours since work and home are now separate. Especially for those with younger children at home, work-life balance becomes a challenge. All this means employees who struggle to set clear boundaries and can't resist the urge to "call it a day" may not be the ideal candidates for remote work.

Predicting what the office will look like in three months, six months, or a year is impossible. Every day, new developments and guidelines force companies to adapt. Although the spring and summer have shown us that companies can operate successfully with a remote workforce, the approach could be better for some. As organizations look to the future and make decisions around remote, in-office, and hybrid working models, employees should think about the pros and cons of each.

Fortunately, the technology is available to support workers in any approach they take. Whether your organization opts to stay remote, begins to bring people into the office or leverages a hybrid model, a unified communications platform that provides collaborative tools keeps your entire team connected and engaged.

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