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Pros and cons of making remote working permanent

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 05 May 2020, 1:29 pm

Alert 2 feels so close, less than a week away. Maybe. And with the move back down the alert levels being actively discussed many organisations will be considering when to open up the office - if at all.

Remote working at scale has turned out to be achievable for a huge number of organisations. At its most basic 'office workers' require just three things to work effectively - a broadband connection, a device and a video conferencing app.

Why would you go back to the office?

That's a question that will be top of mind for many employers right now, and probably more so for SMEs who may be contemplating whether it makes sense to keep paying commercial rents. Employees on the other hand may be enjoying the convenience of working from home and being able to dispense with the daily commute.

Replacing in-person meetings with video conferencing is just so easy, but like everything it has its pros and cons. One of the positives is that employees who aren't located in same the city as the company's headquarters can attend meetings on an equal footing. There is nothing more appalling then knowing that if you attend your department's All Hands meeting remotely, your every twitch will be noted by attendees staring at the large screen located beside the speakers' area.

On the negative side is the new(ish) complaint known as "Zoom fatigue" - although it applies to video conferencing in general. This very modern ailment is the subject of a National Geographic article that helps explain why you may feel more tired at the end of a day Zooming, than if you had attended meetings in person.

"Multi-person screens magnify this exhausting problem. Gallery view-where all meeting participants appear Brady Bunch-style-challenges the brain's central vision, forcing it to decode so many people at once that no one comes through meaningfully, not even the speaker."

Yikes! Although the article does conclude that 'Zoom fatigue' may fade over time, as our brains become used to navigating "the mental tangle video chatting can cause".

The article recommends that if there is too much VC in your working day, that you switch to voice calls for some meetings. Maybe even take it on the footpath for a walking meeting so you can get some fresh air at the same time.

While the move back to 'normal' pre-lockdown life will be gradual, it will be interesting to see if traditional office work changes completely, or not at all. As with most the things I expect the reality will lie somewhere in the middle.


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