Remote Working or Back to the Office?
From the beginning of time, humanity needed to adapt to its surroundings in order to survive, and our reaction to COVID-19 was no different. This meant turning to the survival tools available to us to keep, not only ourselves, but our businesses alive. Be it by pushing online commerce where possible, investing in delivery services, or granting remote working, many organisations found themselves introducing new measures to keep afloat.
When it came to working from home, this was made possible partly to the advanced technological improvements such as the available internet access and product management services. Yet, this was not achieved in every industry as is the case with ‘hands-on’ and on-site professions such as cab drivers or health workers, to mention a few. The other factor we need to consider is that not all parts of the world have access to the internet, which meant that although many office workers in Western Europe could protect their health and work from home, people in other countries did not necessarily have this luxury.
Given the experience of many who over the last couple of months have successfully, and others unsuccessfully, implemented remote working, here are four insights on working from home and why it can or won’t work.
Remote Working and its Distractions
One of the main reasons that remote working may not have been implemented until it became a do or die strategy, lies mainly in the fact that employees cannot be supervised directly from home. Concerns like whether time is being used effectively when working from home have always been an issue. Not knowing whether workers are taking too many breaks, being distracted by their children or pets, or just abandoning work altogether and watching Netflix, are still valid apprehensions. This means that if not just yet, remote working might soon be likely to be granted, once again, only when absolutely necessary.
Distractions work both ways however, meaning that many employees may not want to work from home as going to the office provides a distraction or an escape from certain issues at home. For others, remote working can prove more productive as they will have more time to focus on their work without getting called into impromptu meetings and phone calls, or without having loud colleagues put a dent in their work schedule.
People at the Office and at Home
People crave human connection, and although video meetings have taken off in the last few months, it is difficult to replace face-to-face interaction, especially in critical situations which could mean the difference between closing a deal or not. In a world overrun by technology, an excess of it or deprivation of further human interaction will take its toll. The interaction with colleagues is part of a work-life culture, and we need human interaction and social activity to survive. Those who live alone and work from home are more susceptible to depression and loneliness as they find themselves in complete isolation.
Advocates for working from the office insist on the increased collaboration that results from such physical interaction, which is also the reason why team building and company culture have been given so much importance in the last few years. Colleagues learn and grow from each other especially in the case of new employees, whilst management will find it harder to get to know newcomers and instil procedures from a remote workspace.
Yet remote working allows for greater diversity at the workplace, and with a remote working policy in place, companies are not constrained geographically and can look toward hiring other candidates from across the world. Such individuals may not only carry a set of expertise that may not be easily found locally, but can also allow businesses to gain insight into new and foreign markets.
Remote Working: The Home Setting
Unless you have a proper home office, it may be difficult to replicate the space offered at work. A dining chair, as opposed to an appropriate desk might cause back pain in the long run. Confidential information might be left lying around for roommates to see, and printing is just one of the expenses the employee would have to take on for themselves.
Yet, the lack of commuting is not only rewarding on the environment but on the employee. Such a policy reduces the need for travelling, saving more time, as well as reduces traffic and parking stress. These rewards are said to increase productivity in employees who can organise their workday having saved time on commuting and may be able to even fit in a workout before 9am. Similarly, office costs are reduced as rental space, supplies, water and electricity, and even cleaning, could see a significant reduction.
Time and Family
For employees of any type of work ethic, the work-home line gradually may become blurred. On the one hand, you have employees who will sacrifice their free time, as work hours and weekends are no longer separated, but become one big constant workday. Others might do the opposite and take their relaxation time too far.
By being at home more often, employees find that they have more time to spend with their family. With roommates and couples, especially with children, house tasks can be split equally as both individuals find themselves more present at home.
Working from home cannot be viewed in a vacuum. We need to look deep into the matter and envision the long-term effects. Will companies have more income that was saved on office costs to invest elsewhere? Will employees move to different areas as they no longer need to take into consideration the length of their commute? Would we see an increase in marriage breakdowns or domestic violence as people are around each other more?
Working from home isn’t for everyone, and although after lockdown many employees may request to work from home, others may find that remote working does not fit their role. Some might find that they cannot complete certain tasks unless they are at the office, especially if collaboration from others is required, as communication is not always optimised when done remotely.
And although many companies have decided, or may decide, to instil working remotely indefinitely post-COVID, is it a strategy that will work in the long run? Although many companies may notice the benefits and reduced office running costs that come with remote home working, will the trend turn full circle, and once the hype is over return to the norm? If a company didn’t allow remote working before the pandemic, the reasons why that policy was not in place previously, may likely crop up their little heads again, sooner rather than later.
Whichever style of working you choose, let your staff known their concerns are valued. Learn more about Laferla’s Employee Benefits Insurance Package and the different options available.