Coronavirus has driven people out of the office to work from home

Antti Tiirikainen works as a sales manager in SA-TU Logistics

People are strange in that we only make changes happen quickly if we are compelled to do so. This spring, people all over the world have been telecommuting. Telecommuting, or working from home, has been a hot topic recently. Although previously used in some industries to varying degrees of extent, huge numbers of people have now begun working from home as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Many companies who did not previously use telecommuting now find themselves in a situation where external factors have rendered telecommuting compulsory within a rather short time frame. The situation certainly caused a headache for both employees and employers trying to figure out how to manage work from employees’ home offices.

To begin with, working from home probably felt strange to many, and was the topic of much discussion. The media reported on sightings of “underwear dads” appearing in their boxer shorts in video meetings. Home offices built on the kitchen table are not to everyone’s liking, and ergonomic sacrifices have had to be made. After the initial shock and teething problems, people adapted to working from home and soon became familiar with video meetings and the related netiquette. Video meetings have grown in popularity as they are concise and mostly stick to the topics at hand. Of course, they have also been used to maintain social interaction with colleagues holding shared lunches and coffee breaks.

Breaks are easily forgotten when no-one disturbs you

For me, one important aspect of working from home is spreading work out over the course of the working day. As I had not previously worked from home, I noticed after a few weeks that I sometimes sat in front of the computer for the entire day without taking any breaks. This caused me to have muscle aches and pains. The working day can also stretch long into the afternoon as there is no familiar end to the workday as there was back when I could physically leave the office. These weeks have taught me to pace my work throughout the day so that I have clear breaks to give my mind and body a rest.

Luckily, some of us were more familiar with working from home, so the sudden change did not have a huge impact on our work. In a way, we have been preparing for this for years by moving to an almost paperless office and by developing tools and programs for employees that can be used regardless of location. In many tasks, telecommuting is more effective than normal office work. There are no external distractions, which makes it easier to concentrate on your work. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily apply to parents with children who are distance learning or who are in distance day-care. They have famously had to multitask and act as a teacher and chef, all while working as usual. One positive thing has been the commute, or lack thereof. Normally it can easily take two hours a day to travel between home and the office in the capital city region, but now we have been able to use this free time on other things besides sitting in a car or on public transport.

Hopefully, the future will be a nice mix of remote and on-site work

Working from home is not for everyone, at least not quite this much. Most people, including myself, feel a need for real contact with others and a social life. Once the coronavirus outbreak eases, it will be a true pleasure to see my colleagues and customers in person, and perhaps even shake their hands.
Telecommuting is largely based on a mutual understanding between the employer and employee. As there is mutual trust, work can be carried out in any location. I believe that in the future, telecommuting will become more common, and this will have an impact on premises for many companies. It may not be necessary to have a workstation for every employee, and premises may be optimised depending on the number of employees working at home and on-site. These will become hybrid spaces, used by many people at different times. In addition, lots of work will become digitized and develop in a direction that means that in the future, work will increasingly be location-independent and less bound to a fixed place.