The beginning of 2020 should have already clued us that a crisis would change the world in the next three months, so much so that bosses ordering their employees to stay at home is the new norm.
Devastating events (e.g., the U.S.-Iran tension that threatened World War 3, retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant’s death) that took place in January sent shockwaves around the world. Still, everyone hoped for happier days ahead. Unfortunately, the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic happened.
News about the virus started circulating in December, but it wasn’t until March that the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic. This development triggered lockdowns and stricter guidelines around the world.
Faster than Fast-Forward
One by one, countries imposed strict lockdowns that prohibited the public from leaving their homes unless they’re buying food or heading to the hospital. This unprecedented and quick turn of events forced industries to get creative to keep their respective markets running. Companies scrambled to implement work-from-home, and those that couldn’t operate outside of their business premises (e.g., restaurants, bars, cinemas, sports facilities) had to close shop.
Many business owners and decision-makers had to make these difficult decisions in a week or less. These events happened in Europe and Asia, where many countries immediately went on lockdown soon after they had confirmed local transmissions.
Bound to Happen
This is the new reality for professionals around the world: those who can continue to do business remotely are now working from home. It should be noted, however, that this set-up is not a product of the pandemic.
Work-from-home has long been practiced in the BPO, IT, marketing, and software and tech development. Some companies operate 100% remotely, while others offer work-from-home by shifts or as a performance-based incentive. Freelance writing company, PayPerContent, says that remote working is advantageous to employees, and this is the primary driver for the movement.
A Gallup survey recently found that 43% of Americans were already occasionally working from home before the pandemic started. Moreover, U.S. Census data states that 5.2% or 8 million of the country’s workers were working full time from hone in 2017.
Employees’ evolving preferences were also driving the acceleration of work-from-home jobs. Zapier’s The Remote Work Report reveals that 95% of workers want to work remotely and 26% had already quit their jobs in favor of another that allows them to work from home. Additionally, 74% of knowledge employees are willing to resign from their present employment and explore remote work options.
These data indicate that the movement for office emancipation has already gained traction; the COVID-19 pandemic simply sped things up.
Towards the end of March, the news about Sweden keeping life and business “as usual” circulated and held quarantined nations in awe. The very next week, however, Sweden saw a sudden surge of deaths from coronavirus with 114 confirmations in just 24 hours. The Swedish government is now rethinking its stance and imposing stricter measures against social gatherings and open borders.
Japan and Singapore, which managed to keep the coronavirus infections and deaths down in January and February, saw surges in these numbers in March. News reports cite their lax quarantine policies as the main culprits for the “second wave” of infections experts fear is coming.
These reports imply that lifting quarantines and lockdowns too soon will only lead to a resurgence in coronavirus infections. It’s also likely that the world will only go back to normal starting from the second half of the year. We can, therefore, expect that work-from-home schemes will persist this year and possibly the next.