11 Aug 2020
Is remote working a game changer?
The last few months have seen seismic changes to the way we work and, in many instances, will continue to work in the future. Many businesses saw an immediate, yet unprepared for, move to large scale homeworking when the lockdown was enforced. The longer term impact of this dramatic change on people and their work life will become clearer in time. For now, consistent, supportive interaction with the workforce, will be required to ensure the success and continuity of business.
Remote working has come with its own set of challenges, including use of new technology, isolation and maintaining security of sensitive data. As the restrictions start to ease, we see surveys highlighting the fact that company bosses and HR managers expect some employees to be reluctant to return to the workplace, anticipating issues with family and childcare arrangements. Taking the aforementioned challenges and combining them with a workforce that’s not keen to come back into the office, each business will need to weigh up the pros and cons of what is best for the business and its employees.
Large tech companies Google and Facebook have extended home working for their staff, with Twitter going one step further and announcing that employees can work from home ‘forever’ (if that’s what they want). But this approach is not practicable for many organisations and longer-term homeworking will differ from the overnight arrangements that were hastily put in place. Video calls from the kitchen table and the daily juggling of work, childcare and home schooling may not be the ideal for everyone.
If remote working is an accepted “new normal” and is working well for your business, how do you approach a potential return to the workplace? Chances are that some employees can’t wait and others are dreading the thought. Some will have found themselves far more productive away from the interruptions of office life, whilst others may be suffering damage to their mental health in isolation. This is not a “one size fits all” scenario.
A good starting point is to talk with your employees and establish how they feel about returning to work. Then, should you decide that it makes sense for those happy at home to continue working remotely, have the discussion about their workspace environment and equipment. A move to permanent home working must be a viable one. Wanting to work from home and being able to perform duties effectively and safely are very different things.
For those counting the days until they can get back to work and interact with colleagues away from a computer screen there is the challenge to business of ensuring the workplace is COVID secure. They may be keen to return to the office but can you ensure their safety?
Once you have talked with your employees and established the best approach for each individual and the business, you will need to consider how the working life will look going forward. If there is a mix of home based and office based workers you may want to consider more flexibility around working hours, adapting your business processes and considering how you can support line managers with remote teams.
If remote working is to be a real game changer there has to be trust and there has to be flexibility. Forget the 9-5 and be clear about your expectations. Allowing staff to work flexibly and get the job done when it’s most convenient for them can lead to a committed and positive workforce that feels valued. But deadlines still have to be met and deals done. Compromise will be needed but it will be worth it.
The primary focus of the transition to remote work was on collaboration and productivity tools and businesses embraced new technologies. They now want tools that support the remote workforce and HR is ahead of the game. Mobile apps with access to personal data, payslips, leave and the ability to clock on and off from a Smartphone or tablet are just some of the features already available from leading HR software providers. Out of sight should never mean out of mind.
Originally published on London Loves Business.