The COVID-19 pandemic made remote working a sudden necessity for many employers and employees in 2020. This shock resulted in 35%–50% of all U.S. employees working entirely or partly from home by May 2020.1,2,4 Information technology played a central role, with Internet connection at home making the transition to remote work remarkably unproblematic for most people. But many surveys carried out to enquire about how individuals view remote work demonstrate that its impact can be a double-edged sword. Some are loving it, with flexible schedules, no long commute, and more time with family. But others are unhappy with loneliness and the blurred boundary between work and leisure.5,6 How can we make sense of these mixed pressures? What are the different factors that have affected and will continue to influence the way we work? This column considers what remote working has meant before the pandemic, and its likely transformation in a post-pandemic world. I argue that the institutionalization of "remote work" as "working from anywhere" will require deep changes in organizational life.
Remote working is not a new idea. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated changes already under way, and pushed things over a "tipping point." However, challenges remain for workers, including those in the IT and software industry, not least because of the sudden and unplanned way in which this happened, alongside the furloughing of jobs and the closure of schools.
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