The Coronavirus has undoubtably led to more people working remotely. As a precautionary, measure the population of the UK was asked to work from home indefinitely, but we ask in the long term is it suitable for everyone and will it become the norm?
While the novelty continues for some, many are itching to get back in the office. With this type of flexible working arrangement becoming increasingly popular, we wonder whether we will see a change in the workplace dynamic. Companies are becoming accustom to remote working as it can make for a better work-life balance, allowing people to live further form their workplace while seeing an increase in productivity. It can especially come in handy during periods of extreme weather, when people can stay safe at home but still tackle a day’s work.
Employees are continuing to embrace remote working and companies may find they do not want to return to the office once the closures are lifted. Smart and forward-thinking companies will identify that keeping their workforce happy and productive is critical to their success and will be keen to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.
Many companies have been forced to rapidly improve their IT resources, infrastructure and their employees’ digital capability in order to remain operational and therefore viable. Working from home is the new model and one which companies would be right to give serious consideration to moving forward, post-lockdown.
How Could the Future Look for Workplace Communication and Productivity?
More and more meetings are being facilitated with software such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts. But to do so they must be well planned and operate under stricter protocols, with recording easy and the risk of hacking increased. Hackers may look to exploit information gained and misuse it, making it important to maintain high security by the means of modern technology.
Many virtual meetings are resulting in shorter and more purposeful catch ups with clearer outcomes. If this was to continue, meetings could take place in half the time and without the associated travel for those companies with multiple office locations. Efficiency pays and you won’t find many people asking for longer meetings.
Although, there can be no denying that there will be a clear decline in personal contact, and many will argue the best mode of communication is face to face.
How Will Behaviours Change?
We are seeing an abundance of video conferencing replacing the face to face meeting. With many businesses using this opportunity to stay connected with their workforce, this isn’t the only means to do so.
Away from video conferencing, there appears to be a massive preference for people to ‘talk’ to each other in type, be it via email WhatsApp, text, Messenger, instant chat, etc. There may need to be a change in email culture. Succinct points are appreciated to prevent overload and keep productivity high. People may even need to learn to pick up the phone more or there is a risk that emails will increase and the personable touch between colleagues will decrease. Better, fewer, clearer messages to get important points across will be a must, as will knowing when to not send an email at all.
Can Employee Wellbeing Benefit from Homeworking?
In short, yes. We don’t want to downplay the important social aspect of working in an office and the strong sense of belonging for many. But, at times, this can be difficult to achieve virtually. However, we believe there are many benefits to remote working.
More flexibility in your work schedule is a bonus to anyone. It allows workers to facilitate the school run, attend a dentist appointment, drop some shopping off for relatives and all the other things we have to fit into the day. Family friendly hours particularly ensure that organisations attract the best workers for the job and from anywhere in the country.
We believe avoiding the daily commute is a win-win situation all around. It can be expensive, particularly tiring and the added concern of feeling bad that you’re damaging the environment are all great reasons for avoiding the rat race commute. Many employees will often put more time in when working from home and be more effective without the strain of non-productive traffic. Faced with a return to ‘normal’ work life, we envisage many will recognise how valuable this time and output really is.
What About Other Benefits?
There is an augment that infrastructure can be more effectively deployed too. With many businesses now addressing their IT and computing solutions to get the best out of the systems they use. Mention cloud computing here and no longer needing direct network access for software or files. Microsoft Teams, being a good example.
Buildings are also expensive to acquire, resource and maintain. Implementing flexible working practices can alleviate these costs and can foster a high-quality working environment. It is without doubt that when we see a return to ‘normal’ work life, there will be facilities managers tasked with reducing office related overheads. Also, if social distancing measures are mandated, that’s going to have an impact on buildings and office management / layout.
What Changes Do Businesses Need to Consider?
The longer the pandemic continues the more time it gives companies to consider what changes they need to implement to support a larger remote working work force. Corporate networks, unused to having most of their connections via virtual private networks (VPNs) are having to address their IT infrastructure and fast. This has had a knock-on effect with internet providers coming under pressure to lift bandwidth caps, so that remote workers do not get cut off from their employers halfway through the month.
Companies will identify that most knowledge-based work can be carried out remotely but those in these roles will need to continue to communicate with their business regularly. Investments in office chat groups and giving remote access to critical tools will be crucial, to ensure that processes and procedures are not interrupted. Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog on the ‘Best Communication Software When Working From Home’ where we take a look at some of the best tools to stay connected.
Office based work provides us with face-to-face social settings, networks and relationships which can be engaging and stimulating. But for many organisations, who had not previously experimented with remote working, this period of disruption has been both a trial and education about the possibilities of what future working practices may look like. It is inevitable that many organisations will wish to review how they and their people operate going forward. The question is will yours be one of those organisations and how will they go about it?