Remote working is here, firms must frame policies

There are many questions that must be answered before assuming that technological readiness is all that is needed for working remotely

By Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori

Published: Mon 30 Mar 2020, 10:54 AM

Last updated: Mon 30 Mar 2020, 1:13 PM

Today, we are making history, as we put to test a new arrangement of work, which is working from home and learning from home. We are rehearsing for a future work environment, where there would be no need for permanent physical service centres or long commutes in order to accomplish routine tasks. Regardless of the level of success of this format, it is certain that we will learn a lot of lessons by the end of this phase. 
The concept of working remotely has been discussed among visionaries and future planners for a long time, much earlier than the outbreak of Covid-19. A study by Gartner showed that by year 2030, the world could  witness a 30 per cent increase in teleworking as a result of Generation Z getting into the employment sector. 
Technology is the most prominent enabler for remote work, but it is also the biggest challenge. Almost 54 per cent of the HR leaders surveyed by Gartner said that the biggest challenge to remote work is the lack of infrastructure with regard to digital technologies. 
The first lesson that we will need to take into consideration after Covid-19 gets in control is the need to develop programmes and systems for remote work in order to enable managers and officials to measure performance and productivity and follow-up work mechanisms in a streamlined and coordinated manner.
However, as in many cases, theory may be different from the reality. There are many questions that must be answered before assuming that technological readiness is all that is needed for working remotely. For example, managers might wish to know how to ensure that staff can make good use of the opportunity to work remotely and how to apply evaluation mechanisms in such scenarios.
Employees, on the other hand, may find it difficult to stay focused and motivated while working from home. They may face technical problems that hamper their productivity and prevent them from meeting deadlines. They might even feel ignored or unappreciated.
As for organisations, they might face questions relating to the legal framework. There might also be concerns relating to clear and understandable policies and guidelines and mechanisms for measuring productivity.
Today, we have an opportunity. I am hopeful that Covid-19 will subside soon. And, when that happens, each organisation will have to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the readiness of its infrastructure and regulatory framework to have its employees working remotely. 
Assessment should include dividing jobs into three categories: jobs that cannot be done remotely, jobs that can be done remotely, but at a high cost, and jobs that can be easily be done remotely. It should be followed by setting up an executive plan for each of these categories.
Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori is the Director General of Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE 

We are rehearsing for a future work environment
We are rehearsing for a future work environment

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