It’s no secret that many industries and much of our day to day life is becoming increasingly remote as our reliance on digital alternatives has become more profound – whilst 2020 was certainly a difficult year and the beginning of 2021 will remain as such too, the changing remote future that has come by because of the pandemic has opened up a whole host of new opportunities not only for workers, but for other sectors such as education too. Whilst there will be many pitfalls to come and challenges to overcome too, early signs are certainly looking good as many reap the benefits that come with a change to remote alternatives, and infrastructure and support continues to grow in areas that are still exploring ways in which change can be made – but how does this change remote future look?
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The biggest and most notable change has been for workers – particularly those that are office workers, as the change has been easier than most others. The idea of remote working isn’t a new concept and has been something theorised or put in to place in small instances for a longer period of time, but to do so on a large scale always brought up concerns particularly around factors such as productivity as early fears were that lots of work would come to a standstill, and other concerns around infrastructure and whether existing systems in place could handle a big change. Many of these questions were seemingly answered quite early on, however, as although infrastructure may not have been perfect the change for many was relatively straightforward, and for those where there had been some delays systems were quick to change, often for the benefit as it exposed flaws or problemed areas within business productivity. Similarly, the fears around productivity drops seemed largely unfounded as many businesses reported no change, or that productivity had actually increased during this period of time – although hard to draw any conclusion from an isolated year under specific conditions, it certainly paints a good picture for the future of remote work.
The benefits to the worker as a whole have also been huge too – by cutting out parts of regular office work such as the long commute many workers face, and removing barriers that may stop some candidates from applying to a new position such as distance, workers have been able to experience a level of freedom in the way that they work. Many workplaces have started to allow more flexible schedules so work life starts to fit around the home life, rather than the other way around, and other benefits such as not being required to stay in one location have also been explored by many – concepts like this, much like remote working as a whole, aren’t a new thing either – our increasing connectivity has allowed for the digital nomad lifestyle like these found here to become possible where workers can travel whilst holding down their normal job – in some instances this has been encouraged or supported, particularly this year as the travel industry has experience difficulties and some choice locations offer longer term stays and remote working VISAs for those looking to work in the sun. The general quality of life improvements that can be found by many for a. change to remote working certainly can’t be overlooked, and may remain as a key point to many for why a “return to normal” may not necessarily mean dropping plans for remote working – and with some exploring further changes such as a four-day working week to go alongside remote working too, the future of what our working week is could change dramatically in the next few years – as it already has over the past nine months or so, and as it will continue to do so at least throughout the next few months until other solutions may be offered.
The workplace hasn’t been the only space to see a big change for remote either as education has also underwent huge changes to facilitate a widespread adjustment for remote learning. The most well equipped for this change had been universities, as many of the larger institutions were quick to suggest they would continue remote classes right through 2021 and readdress the situation in 2022, whilst this may be revisited as the vaccine rollouts start to begin, for many at university it’s certainly looking possible that remote learning could remain a feature until next year, or in some instances even on a more permanent basis. Other forms of education have also had to adjust – although there had been some difficulty with infrastructure here that was less likely to be experienced in higher education such as university – although many have adapted well to the change, it’s unlikely that this will be a longer term solution as efforts to keep children in schools or to get the back as soon as possible will remain a priority for many, although the problem solving to be able to deliver online learning particularly to the younger students has certainly been a successful venture.
Similarly, other online services have been able to greatly benefit during this period of time with the change to a remote lifestyle too – remote food delivery has been popular for a long period of time but the pandemic had really highlighted the many uses that we have for these services, and it’s likely some features that have become common such as contactless delivery will remain for the longer period as people have become used to the convenience that it brings. Other sectors such as grocery shopping has also been able to make a faster change toward remote operations too, although available for a longer period of time for many it was often underutilised until 2020 where it had become much more necessary for many to both try and use on a more regular basis and as both become used more often, innovation for improving these remote services will continue to be offered and spread as usage requirements change.
There’s certainly still a lot of opportunity for further changes to remote alternatives to happen and over the next year many may come in to place and become more apparent – with all of the successes however that’s not to say there aren’t short falls to the change and those have also started to be discovered – it’s often easy to take the positives throughout the year in a vacuum and say it has been a success, but there’s no guarantee the same will remain true once things get back to normal and as such will certainly be something that has to be monitored to ensure that there is longevity in the change. Similarly, in settings such as education there have been barriers to prevent some students from accessing the materials such as not having access to a system or the internet to reliably work remotely from – all of which have typically had temporary measure put in place to ease the transition but may not be sustainable in the longer period.
Either way, some aspects are certainly here to stay, and for those who may be looking at a longer term future in remote working in particular there are a huge number of benefits that come along with the change and with a proposed four-day work week not looking too far off either, the future in remote options is certainly starting to look more promising – more tools are being developed to help the transition too, so those who may have been otherwise unable to make the transition to a remote work or education lifestyle may be afforded the opportunities to do so in the future when suitable options become available for the change, and those will certainly start to come much quicker throughout 2021 than options were able to come through in 2020.