An unexpected windfall
The author is the head of the financial news team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Working from home is not an unfamiliar practice at global companies. As employees around the world need to have conference calls or video meetings at the same time, someone has to work before or after office hours.
An employee at an investment bank said that as noises like dogs barking are common in conference calls, no one really cares. As conference calls don’t use video, it is hard to tell where the noise is coming from. “Once I heard a kid singing an alphabet song. No one knew whose kid it was. Someone said “Be quiet” in Korean, so I realized that it was the kid of a Korean employee.” The underlying understanding was that working from home is more efficient despite dogs barking and kids singing.
More Korean companies are allowing employees to work from home in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak. As the deadly virus spreads fast, companies have to embrace the new world of smart working even before they were ready.
People’s responses vary. Some think they no longer waste time commuting and having to please the boss, and others complain they waste energy on communicating via emails and messenger. One said, “Working at home with kids is not easy, so I miss my boss.” Some claim that they could not focus at home and go to a nearby Starbucks to work, exposing themselves to more risk of the virus.
I hope working from home because of the coronavirus will not last long. I desperately want to return to normal society where commuting, working in the office and face-to-face meetings are not dangerous. But the instant implementation of remote working, which did not make any progress for years despite the government’s effort to promote a flexible work schedule for work-life balance, could be an unexpected windfall.
Of course, it is not easy to properly work from home. IT infrastructure is a relatively a small issue. A greater challenge is how to build trust among members of organizations so that not reporting to the office won’t affect the quality of work and an evaluation system is strictly based on performance. Is your workplace ready to embrace working from home? That’s a challenge the novel coronavirus has posed to personnel management teams at companies.