The new normal: Adopting remote work structure

The essence of this article is to review remote work as a component of how work is structured, its effects on employees, and organisational success.

In recent times, scholars in management have been reviewing technological disruptions and how it affects how business is done. In 2020, there was an outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which further disrupted the way work is done, including the need to maintain social distancing.

In the wake of this, the government and its agencies came up with different strategies for combating the pandemic while mitigating its impact across population groups and organisational entities. This included the national lockdown policy imposed to minimise the spread of COVID-19, the adjustment in medical facilities, and the restriction of movement of humans and materials.

All these measures affected the way work was done and how businesses operated. In the long run, we are discussing this because the pandemic has created a new normal that defines how businesses thrive and employees work. Thus, remote work, a form of work flexibility, has become a policy that describes how work is done.

What benefit does this hold for the organisation?

The work-from-home policy has a lot of benefits for the organisation. The most important advantage of this policy is that work was not stagnated or truncated due to the lockdown of the physical workplace. In most cases, when there are disruptions, the ability of the business to continue as a growing concern is negatively and adversely affected. The work from home ensured that companies keep going on regardless of the disruption.

Another benefit is that it helped the organizations avoid layoffs associated with the closure of operations, and in this way, organizational reputation was enhanced. There is also the benefit of minimal overhead cost. Under certain conditions, the overhead cost of doing business is reduced. For example, overhead costs are reduced when working from home eliminates or lowers electricity bills, rent, internet, and waste disposal.

What does this hold for the employees?

Employees benefit from “work from home” policies, especially in most metropolitan cities like Lagos, where man hour is wasted in commuting to and from work. Long commuting causes a lot of physiological stress and reduces employees’ effectiveness at work and in the family. Remote work can reduce these adverse effects. Reducing human interaction due to remote work will reduce toxic work environments and associated effects such as bullying.

Furthermore, productivity tends to improve when employees are in their comfort zone or relaxed atmosphere, enabling them to properly align their thoughts and be psychologically prepared to discharge their duties without possible pressure or stress associated with working from the office. There is also the flexibility of work schedules which can promote time management. Employees can utilise their peak productive time to work better.

However, for those that cannot segregate the boundary between work and family, the tendency to overwork is high, leading to stress and other related issues. Hence, there must be some level of collaboration between employees and their managers to encourage employees to develop and adopt a segregation orientation and for leaders to encourage such orientation. Evidence has shown that where employees have high segregation orientation and their leaders encourage such orientation, the well-being and productivity of employees are better.

Are there time management metrics for it along with SMART goals?

Monitoring employee productivity and performance is relatively easy when working from the office. However, it becomes difficult to achieve this in remote work because of the physical distance between employees and leaders. The question to be explored is how to ensure that those on remote work carry out tasks effectively. Work leaders can define objectives and monitor progress toward the goal in the office.

However, in remote work, leaders can still determine the objective, but they have no control over the progress toward the objective. In situations like this, the leader can set a well-defined goal with delivery time. Employees will have the flexibility to schedule how work is performed. Leaders can set up intervals for periodic review to track how employees are doing. These regular reviews must avoid micromanaging.

Read also: Tax rules trail growing shift to remote work

Can all jobs be done from home?

Not all jobs in an organisation can be done from home. For example, factory workers who manage production in plants cannot operate those machines from home. Even where the process is automated so that people can operate them remotely, there is the need to have some physical presence in the factory.

Two questions become critical for organizations to address: what jobs can be done remotely, and who are the employees to work remotely? The organizations must establish the job requirements for each job and the critical skills required. These must be matched with employee skills. Technology is essential to remote work; hence, employees must be selected based on their skill in handling required technology. Training may be necessary to improve their technological savvy.


Working remotely was justified during lockdown since it was instrumental to organisations operating during the period. Researchers have itemised the advantages and disadvantages of this mode of working.

For example, antagonists of this policy insinuate that minimising human interaction will hinder the flow of tacit knowledge from one person to another. Proponents of the system advocate that the flexibility offered by the mode of work reduces the level of stress and improves the ability to achieve work-life balance.

Some authors have also recognized that this advantage is achieved only when the organizational leaders behave in ways that encourage employees to segregate work and family domains. Studies are still ongoing to properly articulate why and when remote work would improve work-life balance.

Ezeugbor, programme manager, Institute for Work and Family Integration, Lagos

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