Remote work will spread as much as the new coronavirus

Home , São Paulo —May 2020 © George Balmung

As most of the world is faced with its fourth or fifth month of self-quarantine, it’s safe to say that if you live in any densely populated area, your life has completely changed. Hopefully not for the complete worse, but I think most of us have already been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way — no sign of the virus in our household, but the pay-cuts have arrived. Now, home-office is a reality as true as the fact that staying in saves lives, so in a country with the potential of a massive healthcare system collapse and extreme social inequality, I’ll do my part and stay inside for as long as I can.

We are quite aware of the new normal for people: wash your hands for 20 seconds, wear maks, get yourself a reliable hand sanitizer dealer… But what will the new normal for companies be like? Economists are having their go at it, but social distancing will not only affect budgets and salaries and, well, the global economy. It’s already changing the ways we relate to work and how businesses, managers and whole teams interact, communicate, see, and trust each other. In my current job, as a translator for one of the biggest law firms in Latin America, I saw a lot of running around trying to catch up to these new ways of adapting their workflow that they were not wishing to implement so soon — previously, home office was a privilege only for senior staff, and still, it was frowned upon. Of course, that is not true for tech and more, let’s say, savvy companies: bureaucracy stays at bay and home office at least once a week was becoming a more common practice. When all of a sudden a whole country is committed to this “long-distance relationship”, those who were not yet comfortable with not seeing their employees at least some 40 hours a week were dismayed at what to do.

As with everything else, the new coronavirus pandemic will (soon *fingers crossed*) leave behind a new work environment. I’ve heard my bosses talking about how they were not expecting things to run so smoothly with everyone working from their homes but, well, it is all working fine. Personally, I can say that washing a couple of dishes between editing text and another instead of crying at night that I do not have the energy to do them after 12 hours away from home actually feels pretty good. I’ve been eating better, taking care of myself and my things — also, being an introvert helps. I know not everyone is able to stay safely inside, or even is fond of it, but let’s consider the best-case scenario in which I have a job that can be done just on a computer and I’m okay with it. In it, I’m saving money from transportation, working and also getting time for myself, but also keeping in touch with my coordinator and team all of the time. For more old-fashioned companies, this could be the moment to take a leap of faith.

I feel that trust is a massive issue stopping businesses from believing in home-office even for just a couple of days of the week. But won’t we all be winning if those who are comfortable to stay home and still deliver quality work them could do so? I’m yet to see coworkers who are not doing their part in keeping things as they were concerning our results. And that can only be a good sign, meaning we are all standing for what we do, believing in the company and wanting to do our best to keep it on the surface during this chaos. Now consider our 2020 post-apocalyptic momentum, after having the chance to prove that inside a building downtown or in my apartment I’m getting things done. It could be time to make things more flexible all-around when it comes to the location where I’m connecting to the internet to read emails and attend a couple of meetings… that could also have been emails.

It’s also interesting to think about the real sense of globalization that COVID-19 has given us. We’re all truly living on a planet so connected that an invisible teeny-tiny being can impact us all by just being sneezed from people to people. There are lessons to be learned from this as well. It is not only the internet that brings us together at all times, but culture barriers are also being broken once we’ve seen suffering from Iran to the US — it works both ways, of course, breaking and building barriers, but I’m channeling my inner optimist here. The vaccine can come from any country and it will be praised by the whole world. I’m left considering the potential of an actual conscience of this connection— I know I can work with someone from thousands of miles away if I wanted to, but it all seems more real somehow, as our reality is the same. And if location is not a major issue, can we trade more when it comes to ideas and processes? Collaboration will be the key to solve this situation and I do hope that this collaboration becomes a trade-mark of the decade.

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Ana Luiza Araujo

Ana Luiza Araujo

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I’m a Brazilian EN<>PT translator diving head-first into the world of User Experience.