While not a new concept, remote working has seen a surge in popularity over the last couple of years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This brought a huge and unexpected change on businesses around the world as they shifted to adapt to restrictions and ways of working that kept the organisation afloat - and in some cases, prosper.
Not all parts of life could change, though, and that meant that remote working had to change, too. Some workers had other responsibilities that interfered, and if employers wanted to avoid too much disruption, they also had to adapt.
Remote working will always be an option for some workers and roles, but the balance has shifted since the start of the pandemic as the benefits to workers become clear. Will it continue to grow, or will we revert back to life before the pandemic started? What are our options?
The Basics Of Different Types Of Working
There are plenty of ways to work, depending on the role and responsibilities, the industry or sector and the preferences of the business and workers. The pandemic forced many hands, but it opened eyes that what was once standard doesn’t always have to be. Whilst working in an office has been a standard used for decades, the last few years have started a trend of flexible working. During the pandemic we the rise of two new ways of working that increased productivity and proved that office-based work is not a must have.
Working In An Office
The most common approach for many workers was office-based life and it's one that we have known as default for decades. It formed around the 9-5 routine, although start and finish times vary by business and function of the role. It provides a place for employees to gather and work, regardless of whether they worked together or not.
Dress codes, team meetings, tailored equipment and a location determined by the business are just some of the factors. This is great for some people, and they can’t wait to return for the social aspect as well as separating their professional and personal lives.
Remote working has given many workers a new lease on life. Technology has given people the chance to complete their work anywhere, and a lot of effort went into making home offices a viable option, with equipment, furniture and even decoration being key factors.
Skipping the daily commute, having a better work-life balance and being closer to family are just some of the benefits championed by fans of remote working, and it can produce excellent results.
Hybrid working has seen the two previous options merge. The value of an office space has been called into question, as has the space available. There are advantages to having teams work together instead of relying on video chats and other applications, and the social aspect can’t be ignored.
A balance between office and remote work gives employees the freedom to work to their best and be flexible with their schedules - as agreed by employers. What the split is depends on the business, but using the space for other purposes is an option, and hiring more staff who use the office in stages rather than all at once can delay or rule out expensive relocations.
Flexible working is an extension of hybrid working in many ways. It allows employees to work where suits them best, whether that’s in the office or remote. In many cases, it becomes a hybrid pattern that is less rigid or schedule-based.
It can also affect when an employee works, allowing them to take the time to look after family or personal matters. There might be core hours to fill, and flexibility around them, wherever the work is done.
Why Should You Think About Adopting Remote Working?
Employees have had the right to request flexible working since 2014, and it would be difficult to turn down requests now if home working was required during the COVID19 restrictions. While it’s tempting to revert back to office-based working as the economy recovers from the pandemic, this could see employers meeting resistance from employees who have flourished with remote working, as well as hybrid and flexible working arrangements. Their reasons for choosing remote working have value, and are worth considering.
Repurposing The Office
The office has long been the focal point of a business. It’s where employees gather and work, where meetings take place and tasks are completed. The concept has evolved over the years, with open-plan spaces replacing cubicles and collaboration encouraged in teams, between teams and even socially.
However, the office can evolve again. With remote working, there’s more space that can be used for collaboration spaces and meetings, while the endless rows of desks can be scaled back to account for fewer people working from them each day. You might even consider looking at smaller office spaces to reduce costs.
Improving The Work-Life Balance
One of the biggest complaints about working from an office is the daily commute. Depending on where the office is, and where your staff live, that commute could be anywhere from 10-minutes to an hour each way - sometimes more. Throw in those who use public transport and it might be even longer, not to mention the cost.
Giving workers the chance to work remotely means they can get this time back. They might spend it with family or friends, or pursue hobbies they didn’t have time for before, but they’ll be happier having the time for themselves again.
Getting The Best From Workers
Everyone is different, and offices have been known to favour the more extroverted workers. The open plan office especially seems to help those who feed and thrive off social interaction, whereas the more introverted workers find this draining.
Allowing introverts to work from home is a good way to make sure they’re at their best. They can regulate their social interactions and energy levels. Removing the distractions that come from an office environment will let them produce better work.
How To Offer Remote Working
It’s not as easy to simply say you’re going to switch to remote working, or offer a hybrid working arrangement. There will be implications for workers and the business that need to be thought through and planned for. Some of the following steps can help you through the transition.
Consult The Workforce
The first thing to do is speak to your workers. Some will be open to remote working and others not. Trying to force everyone to do the same thing might still cause people to leave and search for an environment and role that suits them better.
Have an honest discussion. Listen to ideas and concerns, and raise the business’s view, too. This keeps everyone on the same page and encourages collaboration to find a path forward that workers for as many as possible.
Provide The Right Tools And Equipment
Wherever an employee chooses to work, it’s essential they have the right equipment - and this is for both hardware and software. Laptops, monitors, peripherals are top of the list, as is ensuring they have a good desk and office chair that supports them during the day. You can even carry out audits to make sure everyone is working safely.
Software matters, too. You might have made do with tools in the office, but do they work as well when people are working elsewhere? This is a chance to upgrade, with video call software and team communication apps important to think about, such as Zoom, Skype, Slack, Microsoft Teams and more. Task tracking tools, like Asana or Trello, can also make it easier for projects to be managed and completed.
The other side of this is to encourage workers to switch off when the day is over. It’s tempting to keep working or just finish the task, but this means more work and not being able to switch off. There are tools to help with this, too, and can help keep the line between professional and personal hours clear.
Be Flexible With Remote Workers
There are distractions in an office environment, and while they can be mitigated somewhat with policies and practises, there’s an understanding that some are natural or unavoidable. It would be wrong to think that, because a worker is at home behind a closed door, there are no distractions at all.
There might be family members around, children to care for, deliveries to collect from the door and more. Make this normal, too, as long as whatever metric you’re tracking to account for work done is met, there is no difference if the distractions are at home or the office.
Making this normal can ensure productivity for remote workers increases drastically, and this is to the business’s benefit.
Don’t Exclude Remote Workers From Social Events And Conversations
Having people work from different locations can make it a challenge to stay connected. Even introverted workers want social engagement, just in different amounts or methods than some extroverts.
It might not be the same, but encourage people to talk over apps by giving them social channels so they can have the ‘watercooler’ moments with people in the office. You can schedule a short meeting once or twice a week for people to use video calls to see and talk to each other face-to-face, and this goes a long way to maintaining relationships in a team or organisation.
Not being in the office isn’t something to be punished, or you might still find your best talent leaving you.
New Ways Of Working Are Here To Stay
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that there isn’t one answer to everything. Remote working, now that it's been proven to work for more people, is here to stay and we need to adapt to these new ways of working.
That means businesses have to adapt not only how they work, but what and how they offer customers. It’s a new market to tap into. It might involve new skills, or refocusing on different areas, and our range of training courses can equip you with the skills needed for a changing landscape.
If you have any questions about the work we do, or want to get involved in a training programme, feel free to contact us for more information.