Change Is the Only Constant in Life: How Remote and Hybrid Work Became Mainstream
The author of this article is EPAM Senior Business Analyst Vinuthna Sista.
In this article
As businesses strive to remain competitive and profitable, they continuously look for new opportunities to improve their productivity. Whether through the adoption of new technologies, streamlining operations, or implementing new work models, businesses are constantly seeking ways to change and improve their bottom line.
In the words of a quote frequently attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “Change is the only constant in life.”
It was always there
The term “remote work” has been percolating for a long time. Early on, it was embraced by young companies and often cited as an exception to the in-office work model. The well-known names of early adopters include Zapier — fully remote since 2011 with 300 employees from over 20 countries, and GitLab — remote with more than 1,300 employees from over 65 countries.
Global knee-jerk reaction
The 2020 pandemic necessitated the rapid adoption of remote and hybrid work models globally. Skepticism about remote work diminished as companies found that it increased productivity and reduced costs. The pandemic catalyzed change and remote work is becoming more mainstream, offering new ways for businesses and employees to achieve their goals.
Every change begins with questions
There are commonly expressed prejudices and concerns about remote work, and I address some of them below.
Isn’t it an excuse to avoid work?
It was always assumed that remote workers don't work as hard as on-site workers. Studies have shown, however, that remote workers are often more productive than on-site workers, and that remote work can increase job satisfaction.
GitLab, a remote company with over 1,300 employees, uses a tool called "GitLab Performance Indicators" to track employee productivity and performance. The results have been great, with remote workers' productivity exceeding their norm.
Won’t we feel disconnected and isolated?
Some observers are worried that remote work creates isolation and disconnection from colleagues and company culture. Remote workers, however, can use technology to stay connected with their colleagues and participate in virtual team-building activities. Instead of spending time traveling to and from work, people can invest it in chosen activities, friends, and family, giving them a chance for a more purposeful and well-rounded lifestyle.
Automattic, the parent company of WordPress, has a virtual “water cooler” app where employees can chat and connect with colleagues. The company also organizes virtual events like game nights and cooking classes. Employees and leadership have created novel opportunities to engage and create meaningful and entertaining conversations.
Will our workday ever end?
Some questioned whether remote work leads to longer work hours and if remote workers have a hard time disconnecting from work. Smart planning and disciplined leadership, however, can address this by helping employees set boundaries and establish a work-life balance to avoid burnout.
Zapier, a company that provides automation tools, has a "no meetings" policy on Wednesdays, to give employees uninterrupted work time and encourage them to take breaks.
Isn’t our data at risk?
Security vulnerabilities were considered the biggest threats associated with remote or hybrid work, including things such as data breaches and cyber-attacks. Organizations, however, are finding new ways to further enhance security and address lapses on a near daily basis — and are seeing stronger systems than in the pre-pandemic era as a result.
Solutions such as VPN, Multi-Factor-Authentication, and endpoint security software have become a norm, equivalent to login credentials.
Organizations sometimes try and fail to implement change. If they are persistent, many eventually succeed, and can leverage the knowledge that they gained to create new, effective, processes and procedures. A good example of a remote work playbooks is The ultimate guide to remote work created in the Zapier company.
With mainstream implementation, and further refinement of remote and hybrid work as the new norm, companies have improved their performance, and both the companies and their employees are reaping the benefits.
In 2020, the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, said: “We've seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”
This transformation certainly affected work processes in the short term. In 2024, we see that flexibility in work is looking like a long-term trend.
To summarize, remote and hybrid work models offer significant benefits to organizations and employees. It is the joint responsibility of company leadership and employees to create a successful remote work culture that maximizes these benefits. Working together, organizations and employees can enjoy the advantages of remote work, including increased productivity, cost savings, and employees’ improved work-life balance.