More flexible working arrangements have been on the agenda for some time. However, no one could have predicted the mass remote-working situation that has been created by COVID-19. While many businesses were already looking to trial working from home on a wider scale the pandemic has forced their hand. The key question now is whether, when the situation lifts completely, working from home will really be here to stay.
A bumpy ride
For many businesses – and their employees – the last few months have been something of a bumpy ride. Converting from office working to entire workforces operating remotely is not something than any organisations planned for. This has thrown up technical issues of security and connectivity and a range of other obstacles that have had to be overcome. As a long-term option, working from home might be appealing but there are some challenges to consider, including:
- Feelings of isolation and the impact this can have on productivity
- Communication challenges that may make teamwork harder to achieve
- The potential for mistakes and errors as a result or lack of – or a different type of – supervision
- Overwork and the fact that it can be difficult for staff to healthily structure a day and switch off at a reasonable time
- The lack of social interaction can have an impact on staff morale and collaboration
A bright future?
However, despite these there are some organisations that are seeing great potential in this mass shift to working from home. Twitter, for example, has said recently that most of its employees will not be required to return to the office but will be able to work from home “forever.” Shopify is due to reopen offices in 2021 but has said most of its staff will be allowed to continue working from home regardless. So, what is it that is so appealing about this more remote set up for these businesses?
- Reduced costs for everyone. There are fewer costs for employees to bear in terms of travel and buying lunch etc and employers can remove the overheads involved in maintaining large offices from the budget.
- A more flexible approach. Depending on the business, employees can structure their days in a way that works for them, taking into account caring or parenting responsibilities or working around their own health conditions.
- Wellbeing benefits. There is evidence that employees feel less stressed when they’re working from home and are healthier, even simply as a result of removing the daily commute from the equation.
- Improved productivity. For many people there are actually fewer distractions when working from home and when left to their own devices many staff are more productive and goal focused than in an office environment.
- Work-life balance. Achieving work-life balance is the Holy Grail and something that very few achieve in an office environment. The flexibility of working from home – as well as the extra hours in the day as a result of a lack of commute – can make this easier to do.
Everyone responds differently
An important thing to consider when looking at the future of working from home is that there will never be a perfect, one-size-fits-all solution. Every industry has responded uniquely to the COVID outbreak, and working from home is not possible or even recommended for many industries. Even on a smaller scale however, your role within a company and individual demographics can have a sizeable impact on whether working from home could be a positive or negative experience. Here are a few factors to consider when anticipating how employees may respond:
- Seniority in role and position within company. Your ability to perform your role autonomously from home will vary based on your seniority. For employees in training or newer employees, working from home can hinder their learning and development and negatively impact their performance and motivation.
- Collaboration and social interaction. For the majority of businesses, collaboration plays a huge role in inspiration, innovation and productivity. While there are tools available to enhance collaboration when working from home, it’s hard to replicate the ’water cooler moments’ which help build teamship and share new ideas.
- Personal demographics. Certain age groups are more likely to prefer working in cities where there is a more active social life after work. While working from home can be a welcome break for those who have families or those who commute a long distance, it can also be a negative experience for those who live alone, as it removes a large social aspect.
So, is working from home here to stay?
While there is no definitive answer, it’s definitely safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has opened the eyes of many businesses to the concept of working from home as a long-term strategy. Whether we will see more businesses adopting working from home for staff remains to be seen, and will vary from businesses to business and sector to sector. There are clearly challenges and benefits to both approaches, so it comes down to each individual business to make a decision based on topics such as those we have discussed in this article.
If you’re looking to create a working from home strategy for staff or reopening for staff to return to the traditional workplace, MBM Omega are equipped to help you. We work with clients to save time and money by providing a single source for all your supplies and office services, allowing you to focus on what matters. If you’re interested in learning more, please give us a call on 020 8899 1100 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.