There’s a saying that goes – “may you live in interesting times”. But to say that now will be an understatement; for many of us, life looks a fair bit different from what it did just a few weeks ago. Yet, some things remain unchanged. Most offices have now transitioned to working from home, making the COVID-19 outbreak an unexpected experiment in making sure the world keeps turning – even under exceptional circumstances.
Working in tech, and more generally working in an office environment, many of us are in a position of privilege, being able to continue working without having to considerably change the modus operandi. In the midst of it all, however, it begs the question – in this crisis, are we seeing the beginning of a transformation in the way we approach our jobs?
It’s a question that has been on my mind ever since we at The Shortcut started working from home. Even more so after this past week, where my situation took quite the turn. But first, let me introduce myself: I am Charlotte, a content creation intern for The Shortcut. An international student from Belgium, I am finishing my master’s degree in Finland – or at least, I was, until last week. As the situation surrounding the COVID-19 virus started to escalate, I realised it was time for me to go home before the inevitable lockdown. It felt a little bit like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where they slide under the stone door right before it shuts; you know the one. Either way, before the week was done I had left Finland and reunited with my family in Sweden, which is where I am writing this post.
Before all this happened, it had never occurred to me that continuing my internship from abroad could be an option. Yet somehow here I am, still doing the same work I was doing before, despite not even being in the same country as my teammates. Of course, It’d be foolish to argue that there are no differences at all; but willy-nilly, the COVID-19 crisis has proven that it’s possible to do your job just as efficiently from home – and that we don’t necessarily need the office space to keep tabs on our productivity.
Knowing now that it’s possible, why has remote work been so difficult to implement in the past? Why have companies been reluctant to let their employees work from home? Perhaps it’s time for recruiters to start considering remote work for those among us who need it; the people that have had difficulty landing positions because they are homebound, be it due to disability, being unable to leave a sick spouse or family member, or any other reason preventing them from working in an office environment. We can agree now that it’s possible – so why miss out on potential talent?
Of course, it’s yet too early to tell. Every day, the news reminds us that this whole thing is far from over; but if you ask me, this pandemic is sure to leave its mark on the way we think about office work. Who knows – perhaps, by the time this is over, we’ll have all forgotten how to function in an office environment.
By Charlotte Van Hulle – March 28th, 2020