What is best? Remote or in-person working? | Daily News

What is best? Remote or in-person working?


The abrupt closure of many offices and workplaces owing to the COVID-19 pandemic during the past few months ushered in a new era of remote work for millions of employees. It may portend a significant shift in the way a large segment of the workforce operates in the future.

For many professions, COVID-19 has made remote working a necessity rather than a luxury.

However, a special Circular was issued by the Public Administration Ministry instructing public sector employees to resume work from last Monday. Yet, the private sector is still experiencing the comfort of ‘Working From Home’.

Moving to the public sector, the Daily News approached the Charity Commissioner of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) Shalika Ranaweera. She said that remote working does not fit into all professions, and it was hard to carry

 Working from home offers work-life balance

out the duties entailed with the Public Assistance Department in the CMC. “Most of our duties must be performed in the field, and we are not structured to an office. We are dedicated to supporting underserved settlements by providing them financial assistance and distributing dry rations in a period of turmoil. During the lockdowns, we had undergone several difficulties, which even led to the distress of the citizens too. We offer a poor relief payment monthly, and as the post offices were closed, we could not function efficiently and provide a continuous service. When another institute was not functioning, it added an extra burden on us.”

Ranaweera added that remote working was inapplicable to fieldwork functions and pandemic-supporting staffers. “Remote working was applied only to office management processes that are dealt with documentation”. She concluded that the job role and the field that one is engaged in will determine the success of remote working.

Remote working has its own assets and liabilities. On the one hand, startups like Slack and Zoom and established titans like Google and Microsoft are making their products available for free in the hope that the people who use them during a crisis will continue to use them once normalcy has returned.

Shifting to the cooperate sector, CEO of the Destination Management sector at John Keells Holdings and Walkers Tours, Nalaka Amaratunga also shared his views on remote working. According to Amaratunga, trust between the employer and the employee is the fundamental factor determining the efficiency of remote working. “Most of the time, the employer thinks that the employees are less productive when they work from home, But I and the management believe the other way around. When we are assigned to work from home, employees do not have the commute pressure; they will get down to work in any dress they are on, reducing the early morning decision fatigue choosing an outfit,” Amaratunga expressed.

He added that currently, the situation is topsy-turvy, and we are in a position to take permission to go to the office instead of asking permission to leave the office.

“Openness and trust should be built. Of course, a certain percentage will misuse the ‘working from home’ opportunity, but that will also happen even if they are called in-person. Practically, it is unable to put a stop to tasks such as running errands, dropping or picking children from home. It is impractical to lock yourself in an office room at home. Unless the tasks meet a deadline, employees can manage work-life balance making the maximum out of remote working. Working from home does not necessarily mean that you have to follow the eight-hour work routine. It is a matter of the output. It boils down to how efficient and safe the process is. A proper mechanism and monitoring of the work assigned will solve the problem up to 95 percent. As for the future’s key performance index, time will be replaced by productivity and output,” he highlighted.

“The new normal – Working from home is highly embraced by our organisation. We did not need to give in to the unnecessary risk of exposing our employees to the virus. The pandemic is not yet over, and it is an uncertain fact. As a group, we are discussing moving for a hybrid working policy; already, plans have been made depending on the work criteria. In the future, people will look for agile working companies. Remote working is a lifestyle now.”

The Daily News contacted Kaveen Muhandiramge, the Co-founder and the Head of Development of AT Digital, a Startup Marketing Agency. Muhandiramge said even before the pandemic, the company had embraced remote working and therefore, the pandemic did not hit the company significantly. “Even before the pandemic, we were stuck to remote working as it paves the path to cut down a myriad of unnecessary costs. Apart from that, remote enables us offers to hire talent around the globe, not just locally. In addition, generation Z is optimistic about the nature and strengths of remote work than in-person work. I believe that it is healthy to give long hours to employees to do their work without pressure instead of paying attention to dozens of real-time decisions at once.” The stance of startups on remote working can be summarised in that manner.

Remote work, as we have long known, provides a slew of benefits for employees. However, this trump card exposes remote work’s impact on employers, employees, the economy, and also the planet.

Remote working does not fit into all professions.

With the above discussions, it is evident that remote working has a myriad of advantages. Firstly, working from home can offer a work-life balance as it comes with flexible schedules. If attending children and sick parents were a worry throughout, remote working has washed away those worries at least to a certain extent. Dropping children to school, running errands, or attending some online fitness classes are easier to balance when working from home.

Another prominent advantage is that remote working results in less commute stress. We all know it is overwhelming to spend hours and hours lingering on roads getting to and from work. Recent research has found that more than 30 minutes of daily one-way commuting is associated with increased stress and anxiety levels. Eliminating the commute can better support emotional and physical wellness by saving time for family and even a workout.

Marking the other end, believe it or not, commuting is beneficial for the country’s economy. And also, surveys have proved that with the pandemic and increasing work from home policies, a spike in breakups and divorces have been observed.

However, reporting to the office means paying the salary of bus, train, and three-wheeler workers; it means adding business to coffee shops, restaurants and bars around.

Considering all these, the way we work has permanently changed for many professions: Remote work and hybrid in-office models are likely here to stay as one of the legacies of the pandemic.

Public transport mainly depends on those who commute daily.


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