There’s been no guide for business leaders on how to deal with the challenges that Covid-19 has presented, and there’s been a few…
From ensuring workforces have had the technology to work from the kitchen table, keeping everyone connected whilst all over the country, and ensuring that everyone has felt supported and productive. It truly has been no mean feat.
Whilst the focus firstly, and understandably, went towards keeping the ‘lights on’, it is now time for the attention to be turned towards supporting teams, enabling them to perform at their best as we enter the new world of work.
With 73% of people in the UK believing that flexible working is the new normal, and future pandemics all but guaranteed, business leaders and IT directors need to ask themselves a few important questions…
Is their workforce sufficiently equipped for remote productivity? Are they prepared for the challenges unique to this paradigm? What other parts of their business operations might be holding their business back? How can they ensure all remaining employee contact is COVID-19 secure?
Business leaders and IT directors now need to understand exactly what the pandemic has taught us about remote working, how employees are coping and how to choose the best way to run their business post-pandemic.
Before the turn of the decade
Remote working was something that so-called ‘cool’ or young businesses provided as a perk to attract rising talent. But one global pandemic later, and things are very different.
Practically overnight, the well-established businesses no longer had the luxury of toying with the idea of remote working as something they ‘could’ offer in a far-off future – they either had to adapt to a remote workforce or close shop altogether.
The revolution happened on a video call
Not only are employees able to stay safe and socially distant – it gives them a better work-life balance, many have more disposable income with less travel and eating out. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, as studies have made the case for remote working for some time, even pre-pandemic!
A 2018 study by FlexJobs found that 65% of respondents were more productive when working from home, while a 2019 report by Owl Labs notes that 80% of remote workers are happy with their job, compared to 55% of on-site workers.
Businesses themselves are also realising the benefits of a remote workforce can lower their costs.
Office space in London is the most expensive in the world – coming in at around 500 pounds per square foot per year for a prime location – so if having a grand central office isn’t as necessary as we’ve been all led to believe, CFOs will be placing that expense under increasing scrutiny. As Forbes contributor Amar Hussain affirms, the cost-saving implications of remote workers alone make it a huge draw.
Perception vs Reality
Whilst working from home has many benefits – less than a third of UK office workers (29%) said that productivity has improved since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Despite all of this, 83% of UK workers still agree that flexible working is here to stay, suggesting there really is little doubt that the world of work has changed forever.
We researched this very issue as part of our ‘Supporting Your Remote Workforce in 2021 and Beyond’ report, and uncovered that productivity is on the wane, with workers saying they are suffering from an inability to effectively communicate and collaborate with colleagues.
While some forward-thinking businesses viewed remote working as the future, it wasn’t quite all as it originally promised, with almost half of UK office workers (49%) agreeing they felt a lack of personal motivation while working from home during the pandemic.
Not only that, one in four office workers (25%) have said that poor-performing IT equipment has made it hard to remain productive at home.
With 31% of workers saying they are struggling with being unable to communicate and collaborate effectively with their peers.
We’ve all seen Professor Kelly be interrupted by his kids whilst working from home, now many (41%) office workers can sympathise with too many distractions at home impacting productivity.
Whilst we now know the benefits, pitfalls, and reality of remote working, business leaders would be wise to pay more attention to employee wellbeing and long-term mental health issues. With lockdown measures slowly lifting the ‘new’ hybrid way of working emerging, this is a perfect opportunity to switch some attention away from key business outcomes, and instead focus on employee motivation.
Well-established and big-named brands are making moves towards ensuring employee wellbeing is at the forefront of their minds, with the likes of Bumble giving their entire workforce a week of rest to combat burnout.
Many companies are now figuring out that permanent remote work is the future of work—pandemic or not. From the likes of Amazon, Facebook, and Shopify announcing that most of their employees will permanently work from home, with Shopify CEO Tobi Lukte confirming ‘office centricity is over.’
There are some other companies taking the middle ground, with Apple requesting that some employees return to work. Apple is known for its unique culture and tendency toward secrecy, which may account for the hesitancy to fully embrace remote work.
No matter which model you choose for, remote, office, or hybrid, businesses’ essential task will be to carefully manage the organisational norms that matter most when adopting any of these models.
Look to the future
Many changes to how businesses will operate in the future are bubbling away in the background and they will start to spread across entire industries, providing a breath of fresh air for our future working lives.
In a nutshell, hybrid working is here to stay, and whilst many haven’t figured this whole thing out, there is a lot of change ahead.
For a company to thrive in this new paradigm it needs to evolve the support provided to remote employees and ensure they’re equipped to give their all.