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A blend of the old way of working and the new is probably the future, a new Forbes research found. And this is essential because remote work is affecting different people in different ways. After all, one size does not fit all – women are enjoying remote work more than men!

Remote work is becoming popular for its flexibility. Most people around the world have become accustomed to working from home, and splitting time between work and home is expected to become the new normal. But, there are also significant limitations in terms of morale, motivation, collaboration and creativity.

Here are some of the key insights from the research, with some practical tips to enjoy working remotely in the coming months!

Women are more positive about remote work, showing more resilience than men

One surprising finding from Forbes’ surveys was the difference in ratings between the genders, with women rating the impact of remote working on their productivity, decision making and communication significantly more positively than men and marginally higher in all the other areas.

Diggin deeper, Forbes looked at some specific aspects of decision making and communication. In terms of decision-making, the surveys found that women are significantly more positive than men about the chairing of meetings online. And on communication, while both genders are quite negative about the impact of remote working on most aspects of communication, women are notably more positive than men that remote working ‘ensures all team members can contribute to meetings.’

Personal impact of remote work – changes in sentiment, from May 2020 to January 2021. EDEN MCCALLUM

Remote work has resulted in low morale and wellbeing among most workers

As part of the surveys, Forbes tracked seven different aspects of how working remotely is affecting business leaders personally – work-life balance, productivity, decision-making, communication, motivation, morale and collaboration. While the story was generally positive until May 2020, employee morale, motivation, and collaboration are all now significantly into negative territory.

Even with the vaccination roll-out underway, business leaders are not expecting restrictions to be lifted soon – 85 per cent say they do not expect a return to ‘normal’ for at least six months, and nearly 40 per cent are expecting it to take over a year. At the beginning of the pandemic, 80 per cent of business leaders surveyed say they had thought it would be completely over in less than a year.

Personal impact of remote work – changes in sentiment by gender, from November 2020 to January 2021 – EDEN MCCALLUM

People are missing the energy and social interaction of working with colleagues face to face, which is ultimately dampening energy levels at work. In order to get things going and make employees feel better, leaders must acknowledge this reality with their team. The employees must also recognize the very tough situation many people are facing. Some other things that leaders can do to maintain and encourage a positive outlook include providing individual counselling to employees, scheduling mandatory ‘no-meetings’ periods into the workday, offering stipends for home equipment, and organizing extra discussion forums with managers.

Overall, remote work has been found to be a mixed bag. The virtual working marathon isn’t over yet but it feels as if we are entering its final stages. There have been ups and downs, and it has affected people in very different ways.

Almost every one of us has seen the benefits of working from home outweighing the negatives over the last year. We need to ensure that we use that learning in a productive way. Leaders and organizations must make changes to their governance and culture to support remote working, such as redesigning objectives and incentives so that they encourage collaboration.

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