Getting back to the office or not? That is a question hanging over many employees’ heads right now. The pandemic has triggered a historic shift in ways of working, with permanent 9-5 desk-based jobs becoming a thing of the past and remote working becoming the norm for many offices up and down the country – in some shape or form. But what’s the plan once the lockdown is well and truly over? One thing is certain: many businesses will not return to the way they used to operate, with BBC research revealing that nearly all of the UK’s largest employers, spanning 1 million businesses ranging from banks to shops, do not intend on bringing employees back to the office full-time.
Remote working is the future
The pandemic has resulted in countless companies downsizing their office space or shutting their office doors completely and operating entirely from home instead. Many businesses plan to adopt a hybrid working setup for the foreseeable future, with staff embracing a mix of home and office working. Big corporations like Facebook, Google and Asda have all recently announced plans to make flexible working a permanent fixture across their head offices.
One primary advantage of remote working is that firms can now easily hire employees from all over the country. This is especially beneficial for those businesses that might have had problems with recruitment in the past or have struggled to source the right talent, perhaps because their geographical location limits them.
Homeworking also greatly reduces operating costs, which has allowed some businesses to rapidly grow because they’ve been able to invest the money they’ve saved on rent costs and overheads elsewhere. Those organisations who might have once been unable to afford big office spaces to accommodate lots of staff members may now be financially able to recruit more people.
From an employees’ standpoint, remote working has allowed many individuals to be more productive since they have been able to enjoy solid periods of concentration time with minimal distractions. Some have also gained valuable time back from not having to commute, enabling them to achieve a better work-life balance.
Downsides of remote working
Of course, remote working is untenable for some types of businesses, notably those in the manufacturing industry, and it is not always practical from a team-building perspective. Another pitfall of remote working is that, with so many offices employing new team members during the pandemic, many co-workers are yet to meet one another.
A lack of face-to-face interaction can undoubtedly affect working relationships. Certain tasks benefit from 1-2-1 collaboration to get the work done most effectively. For example, training or shadowing of new starters or young graduates is always best done in person. It’s crucial that as we move forward in the post-pandemic world, businesses set aside time for social interaction. Whether that be brainstorming meetings, social events or team-building activities, arranging face-to-face meet-ups from time to time is essential.
Having some structure and consistency in place is equally as key. If you’re planning on implementing a blended working approach, make sure team members come into the office on the same set days as each other so that no one feels isolated. This will also ensure that employees spend valuable one-to-one time together as a team.
You could even introduce a remote working staff perk to ensure your employees’ home setup is as comfortable as possible. It might be that you gift each employee a set amount of money to spend on any item they choose e.g. an extra comfy office chair, a good pair of headphones, an Alexa so they can listen to music while they work, or plants to brighten up their home office space etc.
If the past year has taught the world anything, it’s that we can work from anywhere and on a significant scale. Remote working is not for everyone, though. Having the option to go into the office at some point or another is the preferred option for most. It seems that those offices that incorporate a combination of both desk and remote working in some way or another will reap the benefits moving forward.
For more inspirational ideas on ways of working, explore our blog where you’ll find a variety of insightful tips on working methods and internal communications.