Remote Work: Challenges

Will remote working become the new norm? Can we all take part? How will our routine evolve?

Remote Working during COVID 19

Remote working has until now been a highly inefficient ‘last resort’ at times when making it to the office is near impossible. However, as we begin to remerge from COVID-19 we have learnt far more about remote working in such a short amount of time than ever before. Many people would argue of the discomfort of working from home, with the likes of children, household errands and the lack of physical engagement. However, many would attest that it is indeed do-able and may have its own perks. Outside of COVID-19 circumstances it provides freedom and flexibility with both time and location.

Challenges faced

Equipment Required for work from home

Remote work is heavily reliant on the correct equipment and environment being in place. This includes a strong internet connection, computers and devices, physical space, and family environment. The absence of just one of these can turn remote working from a liberating experience, to a painful, impractical, and unwanted ‘solution’, full of drawbacks when compared to the traditional office set up.

Zoom, MS Teams, and Skype are all words that every sizable, technology centric business has certainly now, if not already, become familiar with. But we must ask ourselves in a country where most of the population consists of daily-wagers, laborer’s, and employees of declining, people dependent industries, whether this shift in our working routine will negatively impact these groups.

Groups affected by COVID-19

The almost endless list of those to whom remote working is inapplicable includes employees of the construction, food, manufacturing, and tourism industries, as well as, emergency service staff, doctors, and shopkeepers. For them, COVID has provided a whole host of new challenges and on the other side has shrunk their income, or completely made them redundant. With such large numbers of people in these situations, the government has been unable to provide much in terms of financial support for these employees and their often-forgotten families. The governments of wealthier countries have enacted provisions by which employers are supported in giving a normal wage to their employees, such as the UK’s furlough scheme[1], where the government contributes to paying up to 80% of a person’s salary, easing the pressure on employers and retaining employees. Although, this may only be a pipe dream for Pakistan, it still highlights the level of support needed.

Unemployment Increased

With a claimed unemployment of around 48-55% [2] already existing, COVID-19 may prove too difficult for some employers, and as their income decreases, we may see widespread job cuts and unemployment rise even further. The knock-on effect COVID-19 will have on the workforce of Pakistan is an unprecedented one, with those who must work to provide the necessities for their families being hardest hit.

We are seeing the changes first-hand on our streets. Small business owners have also been forced to make tough decisions as sales and income fall, with outcomes consisting of reducing the staffing numbers, or shutting down entirely, taking all of their employees out of the workforce and off of the payroll.

Remote Working in Pakistan: Feasibility

So as working from home has opened us up to a new possibility of the future of working, likely including a varying degree of remote work. It really is not a feasible for the majority, either due to poor facilities or the nature of their work. Unpaid for months, with families to feed and a lack of prospects when it comes to earning as suitable wage again is becoming a common reality amongst the less well off. We must adapt our way of working and create roles and opportunities for our future where remote working is a focus all whilst supporting our current workforce, who is unable to adapt, and reducing unemployment to really thrive.

References

[1] UK Government Job Retention Scheme – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme#who-can-claim (26/03/2020)

[2] Pakistan Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force Statistics (2017-2018) – http://www.pbs.gov.pk/content/labour-force-statistics

Article by -Haider Din-

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *