The Coronavirus has undoubtedly reshaped the way we work around the globe, in some cases finally driving forth or consolidating the long-awaited paradigm shift of doing so remotely. Mexico is portraying itself as a stand-out model in this “new normal”.
In 2012, it was already one of the top three countries where telecommuting was the most popular, according to a Reuters/IPSOS survey. Today, it ranks as the country with the greatest acceptance of this modality and the most likely to continue using the practice in Latin America, according to IAE Business School’s 2020 Regional Survey: How work and family environments have transformed.
A burgeoning new reality
The study revealed that currently, 8 out of 10 Mexicans work from home on all or some days, a number that has almost doubled since last year. During the pandemic, approximately 69% of companies in Mexico enabled teleworking. A noteworthy figure, considering reports from just a few years ago had predicted 60% of the global labor force would work remotely by 2022.
Across the Mexican workforce, companies have navigated this ongoing situation as best they can; however, each industry is managing it differently. Mixed shift modalities combining remote and face-to-face work were adopted by 24% of businesses in the country, while 4% of companies continued operating as usual and 3% suspended their activities.
A critical factor for remote work adoption is, unsurprisingly, how embedded the use of technology was in the company’s operations and culture pre-pandemic.
A closer look at industry specifics
Many companies, especially in the Mexico tech industry, have long offered remote jobs. Such has been the case of HP, Oracle, IBM, Cisco or Intel, to name a few. However, leadership or managerial positions in the largest cities were the most likely to be linked to telework or telecommuting, with the pandemic now closing the gap with both industries and roles.
According to Deloitte Mexico, for example, within the construction industry, 67% of companies are now working remotely, with the rest opting to reduce face-to-face operations. Meanwhile, 60% of manufacturing companies have based their strategy on the reduction of face-to-face work, while 24% migrated to working from home, and 16% carry on normally.
In the services sector, 54% carry out their activities via home office, 37% downsized in-person interaction and only 9% work normally. In the commerce sector, half perform their tasks remotely, while 41% chose to decrease face-to-face operations and 9% continue as usual.
Strategies vary across industries but also amongst areas. In the manufacturing industry, for example, home office is available in some managerial positions, while a hybrid model has mostly been adopted in areas such as Purchasing, Materials, New Products and Engineering, with employees at the office only part-time.
Beyond the “home office”
Change and adaptation goes beyond just being able to work from home. Recruitment processes have been modified. Job interviews are now conducted via video conferencing. Case studies, technical and skill-based tests, and profile assessments have increased as part of the candidate evaluation process.
An increasing number of multinational companies have also offered support to their employees by providing training on everything from putting together an adequate workspace at home, to time management and dealing with stressful situations. Investment in communication and information technology is also becoming key in optimizing employees’ time and collaboration effectiveness, as well as securing information, factors that now play center stage in these remote operations. New roles and priorities are being redefined day to day.
Responding to unexpected challenges
It is clear that business leaders and employees alike have faced both expected and unforeseen challenges, all the while discovering the opportunities brought forth by the so-called “new normal”. In general, maintaining the level of income and business liquidity have definitely been among the top concerns for companies.
Preserving customer relationships, dealing with point of sale closures, order cancellations or changes in consumer priorities, payment delay, unbudgeted expenses, operational delays, supply limitations, brain drain, a reduced workforce and concern for employee well-being, are among the trials faced by companies while having to adapt to social distancing.
The advantages of remote work
Teleworking provides businesses with useful advantages, especially in trying times. The reduction of brick and mortar, space saving, less consumption of services and utilities such as electricity, and increased productivity are a few areas that contribute to lowering the cost of production.
In this “limited” environment, innovation can also thrive. Companies, employees and clients are finding new ways to collaborate and do business. Traits such as self-discipline, resilience, and flexibility are further developed among people working from home. And in Mexico, it shows. The Employers’ Confederation of the Mexican Republic (Coparmex) revealed that working from home has increased companies’ productivity in Mexico City by 28%. As a side note, it has also reduced traffic and pollution substantially.
The employee’s point of view
Employees are generally happy working from home. An IAE Business School’s Survey stated that 84% of Mexicans enjoy working from home and would continue doing so. Mutual trust between employees and companies stands at above 70%, one of the highest percentages in Latin America. Interviewees mostly agreed that holding meetings and organizing their work has not been hard, whereas one of the greatest difficulties has been separating the office from family time.
What the future may hold
Recent surveys and data demonstrate that while current conditions have tested the capability of organizations to cope with change and adapt their business models to market demands and unexpected circumstances, an evident long-term transformation is definitely taking place in Mexico.
According to statistics from Mexico’s Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, 70% of work activities in the country can be carried out remotely with the use of information and communication technology.
However, some insiders, such as Francisco Cuevas, General Director of the Industrial Union of the State of Mexico (UNIDEM), have forecast that around 20% of industries will continue with this remote work approach once the pandemic is overcome, since the rest require or are better-off with face-to-face work.
Others may continue with a hybrid model or at least incorporate increasing flexibility as more benefits of working from home are established and made evident.
The real “new normal”
Adopting and developing new technologies that provide transparency and updating Mexico labor laws that regulate remote work will be crucial to permanently implementing telework in a reliable and effective way.
The challenge to lasting change is to continue breaking current paradigms so that work is truly perceived as something “that is done” and “not a place where one goes.” Maybe that will become the real “new normal” in Mexico.
By Nora Tsurumi
Executive Search Manager
Nora is the Technology & Engineering search practice leader in the Americas.
Barbachano International (BIP) is the premier executive search and leadership advisory firm in the Americas (USA, Mexico, Latin America, & Canada) with a focus on diversity and multicultural target markets. Since 1992, BIP and its affiliates have served over 50% of Fortune 500 Companies and have been recognized by Forbes as a Top 40 executive search firm. Outplacement and Executive Coaching services are provided by our sister allied company Challenger Gray & Christmas. We are supported by our NPAworldwide partner offices in over 50 countries.