Work from home and the conscious return

About the author: Sergio Madero Gómez is Professor at Tecnologico de Monterrey
Monterrey, México. You can contact him at: smadero@tec.mx

Remote work is not only a flexible strategy for companies around the world, mainly used by the human resources area as talent retention; it is also an important part of the processes related to career administration. Especially, it became the best ally for people to develop new skills when carrying out their work activities, keep their jobs and, above all, reduce the risk of contagion caused by COVID-19, which in March 2020 was declared a pandemic by the WHO (2020). It should be noted that at the time of preparing this article, there have been about 162 million infections and more than 3.3 million deaths worldwide; statistics that, unfortunately, in some Latin American countries or countries with emerging economies will continue to increase as the days go by as long as the immunization of people through vaccines is not stabilized. In Mexico, there is a rate close to 10% of deaths versus infections, compared to 2.1 that is the international one. 

Nowadays, working remotely or from home has been considered one of the processes that has implied a big change in the ways of doing work, and has generated a series of reflections and learning in the short term and long-term, caused by the presence of COVID-19 that seems to have come to stay. Many organizations are reacting to adapt to the new demands in order to be able to move forward in the market. I carried out an investigation at the end of last year, in which 1070 people who work in the metropolitan area of Monterrey in Mexico participated, and I can now share some preliminary results. It was observed that 50.8% continue to work remotely, while 21.7% work in a combined or mixed scheme, that is, one part in person and the other remotely. On the other hand, 11.6% are in the process of returning to their normal activities and finally 15.9%, due to the nature of the work, cannot work remotely, because it is part of the activities that are considered essential. 

This change in daily activities oriented to carry them out remotely, due to the pandemic, has generated a very interesting debate regarding the levels of productivity that may be reached. With the data obtained, we find that 81.9% of the participants indicate that they are currently as productive or even more productive than before the pandemic; however, 84.5% mention that they dedicate the same time or sometimes more than the normal time to carry out their activities during the working day; so it is important to note that the combination of results shows that there could be negative effects on people – for example presenting symptoms of fatigue, stress and / or anxiety in the face of uncertainty due to  remote work. Therefore, it is necessary to stimulate activities focused on the integral well-being of the individual, through the promotion of self-care measures, that is, that favor physical and emotional health, mainly in caring for the body and mind, such as physical exercise, the practice of some artistic activity such as painting, dancing, singing or simply an attractive and motivating hobby. From the foregoing, it follows the relevance of human resources activities in companies to make this happen and favor the balance between the work activities carried out by the person and the personal commitments of the person. 

Finally, I want to share the results of a question that was asked in the investigation in order to know what people thought about their possible return to the offices. We observe that 8.8% mention that it is very likely that they will not return to their offices, 42.1% do not know the date of returning, while 33.6% indicate that they have returned in a staggered manner and the remaining 15.6% never suspended their activities to do them remotely. What has been written in this space has led us to reflect that some human resources and career administration practices, carried out before the pandemic, were considered as an incentive for people or a mechanism of rewarding them, such as business processes to carry out work remotely, but they are representing now a work alternative for everyone.

Currently, the human resources area is designing a variety of strategies so that the collaborators of the various companies that carry out remote activities can initiate the return to their facilities in a planned, responsible and conscious manner, complying with all the care and adaptation measures, to the new work environments, trying to respect the physical integrity, mental health and well-being of people as much as possible, which will surely be research topics for the coming months.

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