Do you work from home? Or can you work anywhere you have a laptop and Wi-Fi? Are you a trader or do you sell things online? You are part of a growing trend in modern business practices, as the elegant city office has become an expensive relic of the “old normal.”
2020 has become the year of the people who work at home. In the same case, this was the year I was told to stay home, so there were not many options. During the lock-up periods of Thailand in April and May, offices were closed and employers had to rush to find alternatives to the “office”. With the rise of Zoom and other video conferencing software, ways to track keyboard time, and hundreds of other tracking apps, employers suddenly found that they could run their businesses without an office. There were certainly new dynamics and unexpected challenges, but for the most part it worked.
The companies had worked from headquarters for a hundred years. The remote / work from home option was a new test for all involved, but many of the early wrinkles were resolved after an accelerated learning curve due to the Covid-19 situation.
At first, most companies were not ready to close the office and send their employees home claiming that some basic operations like online accounting and billing could not be done yet (Thailand loves hard copies and paperwork).
Group meetings were also clunky online. Companies even told their staff to keep going into the office as there were no legal barriers preventing them from doing so. But many smaller, less-digital-savvy companies have demanded workers come in and risk contracting the virus.
In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that only 29% of jobs in the United States could be completed at home, while in Thailand (a much less digital, service-based economy) the percentage was likely to be is.
But larger Thai companies, such as Unilever and True Digital, have allowed almost 100% of their employees to work from home early during the lockout. Other companies quickly adapted and found that working remotely or at home allowed their businesses more flexibility. Many employees also say that they appreciate the lack of office intervention.
Although Unilever was unable to send its factory workforce home, it managed to move all sales and operational staff entirely online to avoid potential exposure to Covid and find hitherto unknown improvements in the presence of e-commerce the company.
Thai startups like Eko (“Your Complete Worker Experience Platform”) have been able to capitalize on the rise in work from home with its “work anywhere” employee app. Eko recorded sales growth of 200% year-on-year in the first half of 2020 as companies sought solutions to connect employees at home.
Zoom’s massive trading stock conference call at $ 88 in early 2020, to rise to $ 568 by mid-October, then drop to $ 337 by the end of the year – the volatile nature of rapid technology growth.
Workers generally prefer home working and flexible working. It is not suitable for all companies or all employees, but for many. A study by Thailand’s Robert Walters recruitment experts found that 75% of employees want work from home opportunities and only 25% want to return to full-time office work.
Last month, police and police from Bangkok Metropolitan Institute urged companies to allow workers to work from home at least once a week to reduce traffic pollution.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also forced countries to rethink their supply chains and their dependence on foreign goods. China, for example, responded to the outbreak by shutting down factories, which some other countries relied on for medical equipment needed to fight the virus and the essential components needed to produce goods in China and other countries.
Although there has been an initial push back on China, the international supply chain is so intertwined with Chinese businesses and manufacturers, and China with other countries, that it would take decades to relax.
One of the biggest winners this year was the increase in supply services. Grab Bike, Food Panda, We Serve and Line Bike are the best known, but start-ups are making their way into the growing distribution space, as well as many small and large companies that have their own deliveries.
These companies have been able to thrive on the “new normal” home stay culture. Eating at home, working from home, shopping at home, watching movies at home – the trend is growing as people realize that they can deliver almost everything, on time, efficiently and usually for a small extra charge for free.
The big test will be once the Covid situation is resolved, whatever that means and whenever it happens, and companies look back on the successes and failures of their home-based employees. But the pandemic and the restrictions imposed have undoubtedly accelerated the need to develop new ways for employees to work safely, remotely or from home.
The successful transfer of some office jobs to home-working will also place continued pressure on the commercial real estate market. Many employers are looking at their monthly office rental costs and are beginning to measure the return on investment.
The rise of the home-working phenomenon and the digital rover will be the main trends for office work in 2021.
This article was written lying on a couch, at home, at 6.15am … because we can.