Will Coronavirus establish the home office as a permanent institution?
By Marc Mathews, Business Development Manager
Social distancing rules and office closures have forced many employees to work from home. For many, this is a blessing: few will miss the overcrowded trains or roads and the time spent on them. Many will also save significant amounts of money. Not to mention that 31% of employees feel working from home provides a better work-life balance[i].
For businesses the current situation may be a good testing lab to establish whether remote working may be the way forward and for many, the pandemic will rapidly accelerate their digital transformations Barclays, for example, is running its business with nearly 90% of employees working “from their kitchens” and, as a result, will look at a “more de-centralised approach to staff working”[ii]. Many others will be keen to reduce their property portfolio and travel costs.
There are certainly going to be some challenges that employees and companies will have to address and come to terms with, if home working is to become the new normal.
68% of employees feel they are as productive or more productive from home, despite the current challenges, including having children at home for many workers[iii]. However, do companies trust their employees to be as productive at home? Whilst this could be more of a company culture agenda, a shift from the focus on “hours worked” to “results achieved” might be required as a result.
Is everyone equipped to do their job from home? Employers can probably assume that most people will have broadband (or provide it if not), but do employees have an appropriate space to work effectively at home? What if their partners work from home too?
Technology will in many cases provide the answers. Time-and-attendance systems, can help establish rules for the home worker and tools to allocate employees to projects, such as Retain, provide transparency to planners and personnel alike. The cloud-based design of both systems will enable employees to access them remotely, from anywhere in the world. Cloud storage allows staff to share large files and apps such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom help colleagues, conduct effective meetings and stay in touch by having online team coffee breaks and after work drinks and quizzes.
However, technology may not be able to alleviate social isolation that many will experience and may contribute to a blurring of work/family boundaries with detrimental effects on employees’ well-being.
Companies who intend to shift to a predominantly home-based working model in the future will have to engage with their employees and provide guidance and tools to ensure that employees can work effectively and continue to feel part of a team. Depending on the industry and jobs, working remotely can provide a more motivating and less stressful work life. Managers should not forget though, that we are social animals. Occasional physical meetings and team socials will provide a feeling of belonging and be a source of motivation for the home worker.