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Coronavirus: Remote working could be a thing of the future, long after Covid-19

Remote working and virtual collaboration are likely to remain long after the days of lockdowns and once coronavirus is eventually consigned to the history books.

According to Jeff Youssef, partner – Public Sector, at Oliver Wyman, remote working could be adopted more widely in the economic recovery period and even on a sustained basis, as it provides cost efficiencies to businesses in terms of office space and greater time efficiency, removing commuting time.

“These cost benefits will help fundamentally soften the impact of the pandemic on businesses when the economic upturn begins,” he said.

From March 29, government entities moved to a 100 percent remote work system following guidance issued by Dubai Executive Council, while private sector entities must have at least 80 percent of their workforce operating from home.

Youssef added: “When an organisation wants to tackle a complex problem or have an important discussion, the default is to get the relevant people together in the same room. The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has fundamentally challenged this way of working, from companies imposing travel restrictions on their employees or limiting the size of meetings, to workers self-isolating after returning from affected regions.”

However, while the benefits of remote working are obvious, and there is very little choice at the moment on whether to work from home or not, there are concerns over potential isolation and resultant mental health issues.

Nuno Gomes, head of career at Mercer MENAT, told Arabian Business: “Although working from home allows for employees to spend more time with their families, it often becomes difficult to differentiate between working hours and personal time when an employee is spending the entire day in the same location.

“For those who live alone, feelings of isolation may arise – often times resulting in reduced creativity and disengagement from the wider team.”

As a result, she believes most will welcome a return to the office, when allowed to do so.

“The human touch is still vital to many businesses and functions, particularly in the Middle East, which is why I do not see this becoming the norm.

“There will be an increased appreciation for the merits and benefits of remote working, augmenting the effectiveness of humans at work. However, it will not completely replace the need and efficiency of human interaction. The future is human, digitally empowered.”