In the current climate, it’s hard to avoid articles and debates on the future of the workplace, if such a place will exist. Is the “new normal” we keep hearing so much about really a long-term reality or is it a period of time that we hope will soon become a distant memory (we know which one we would prefer). We decided to open up the discussion to try and gain an insight into what professionals would like their working future to look like.
We carried out a survey on LinkedIn and collected results from 1032 professionals, simply asking the question: How many days a week would you like to work from home? The results were very clear in as much as only 5% wanted to be office-based 100% of the time. For some, in fact, probably for many, Covid 19 has led to them working from home for the first time in their career and it’s hard to deny the personal advantages this can have.
Whist as a business, we actively encourage working from home, there are plenty of our employees who have never taken up this option. One particular example is our Finance Manager, Ros, who by her own admission never would have worked from home had it not been forced upon her through lockdown. It is fair to say Ros now loves working from home; an early riser she is able to start work at 6 am, stop at 8 am for an online exercise class, followed by breakfast before getting back to it. Not to mention the time she is saving on the commute in and out of the office. And through technology, it has not impeded her ability to do any form of her job.
On the other hand (and pre Covid 19) our Marketing Executive, Laura, regularly worked from home at least once a week because her role allows her to manage her own schedule whether she’s in the office or not. However, whilst she could technically work from home all of the time, she still chose to come into the office for 3 or 4 days a week. Why? Because there’s a lot to be gained from working in a social environment. A casual meeting over a coffee can easily result in a new idea or POA which can take a lot longer to get to over an email or even a video call. Not to mention leaving the office at the end of the day (and leaving your workload there too) actually allows you to switch off and recharge which is a little difficult to do when your home office is also your dining room table.
There are certainly advantages to both working from home and being in an office environment and whilst our survey indicates that employees will at least want their new-found flexibility to continue, what about the employers?
We are talking to our clients all of the time and the key message we are seeing is that Covid 19 has opened businesses' eyes to change and change that they would have never considered in the past. The laws and restrictions placed on individuals have meant in order to survive, businesses have had no choice but to change and adapt its workplace. In many cases, this has been a positive change and some of the changes may indeed become permanent. We have one client who has already introduced working from anywhere, forever. That said, there are also many who are seeing the changes as simply temporary measures.
For those that do embrace change, it’s possible that we are going to see a lot more flexibility around where work is carried out and the times it is carried out. The focus will be on achieving the right output as a measure of performance rather than when and where someone does their job. This approach will lead to a greater need to invest in technology and to get the job done safely and securely as businesses will want to measure that work is being carried out to the same standard and to prevent staff from abusing the flexibility on offer.
The appetite for change amongst employees and businesses is here, although ultimately, it may not be quite as radical as people expect. The companies who can strike the right balance of embracing new methods along with keeping the right level of face interaction will have a real opportunity to steal a march on competitors; both in terms of productivity and attracting the best talent.