Remote working or Work from Home (WFH) has only really been a topic of conversation from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, as more employees are opting to work remotely.
According to the ONS, the proportion of working adults who did any type of work from home in 2020 increased to 37% on average from 27% in 2019, with workers living in London the most likely to homework.
Of working adults currently home working, 85% wanted to use a “hybrid” approach of both home and office working in the future. However, there was some uncertainty among businesses, with 32% stating they were not sure what proportion of the workforce will be working from their usual place of work.
What we do know, is that there must be conversations at board level and with employees to enable a full unbiased analysis for optimum performance and profitability.
We take a look at seven key areas and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both ways of working.
The average UK commute time is 62 minutes per day with 23 miles being the distance covered. This time is also on the increase and is a major stress trigger.
Commuters having to leave home earlier, being stuck in traffic jams, spending a staggering 11 hours each day in the office, before another congested travel home arriving home later in the evening, contributing negatively to their mental health.
The bottom line is, people hate commuting and so the question posed is ‘Are employees arriving to work in peak performance?’
Employees who have experienced home working, can now see the benefits of the extra time saved which includes more family time and less anxiety levels.
Communication and Engagement
What do you imagine when you think of an office? Employees working hard at the desk and having chats at the photocopier, at the coffee machine or canteen. But there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction and although you can get this over a video call such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom but you can’t read body language and that instant rapport you would get physically.
A recent survey of best practices for remote teams found that communication was by far the most critical key to success. Because employees may quickly find themselves feeling disconnected from leadership or co-workers, communication frequency and consistency are crucial. A weekly schedule of meetings and check-ins can also provide much-needed structure.
In person meetings keep attention spans as well due to the energy in the room. Being sat at a desk at home in the same room all day every day can be mind-numbing and may result in more regular breaks due to the fatigue of staring at a computer screen.
With office working it is likely that there is a set schedule – typically 9 till 5 – and employees are expected to be at their desk ready to start work to the exact minute. They leave home at 7am in the morning, have the daily commute and may just about have enough time for your morning coffee.
With remote working, it is completely different. They now have the complete flexibility to wake up when they choose and to tailor their day to suit their workload.
Companies may still want all employees working the traditional work hours. With remote work, they can now wake up (a little) later, pick a time for lunch, and close their laptop when they want to, for some that’s 4 pm, others it could be 7 pm.
As more companies adopt a remote-first policy, working hours will shift to fit the employee’s schedule. This shift means more flexibility on when you start and end your day and where you work from. You should be able to work from anywhere that has a solid internet connection.
Employees do not have a choice of where they work from in an office (usually), although some opt for hot-desking. It may be a cubicle or an open plan arrangement. You’ve got allocated that place and you stay there until you move positions, or a restructure takes place. You may sit next to a chatty co-worker or you’re next to the noisy air conditioner – all of which has a negative impact on productivity.
The good thing about remote working is that you are in control. You decide where and how you work, depending on the size of your home. You choose your office furniture, whether you opt for a stand-up desk and which room you can achieve optimum performance.
Have you ever had the experience of working at your local coffee shop for an hour and during that time you have accomplished more in one hour than it would’ve taken 8 hours in the office?
Almost everyone has had those pockets of intense productivity. One of the main reasons is that there is almost no interruptions.
When you’re trying to do work that requires intense concentration (such as writing that big report, completing performance reviews or sales projections, creating the new presentation, etc.) it’s nearly impossible to maintain a cogent train-of-thought when you’re getting bombarded with interruptions.
A recent study showed, that on average an employee gets interrupted every 11 minutes and not only this, but it also takes a staggering 25 minutes to get back on to task.
This is a big hit to employee productivity.
There can be a big improvement to productivity working at home, however, there still is a learning curve because there are still potential distractions to contend with – the delivery driver knocking at the door, or family interruptions for example.
Many companies have had to switch to remote work for the very first time. Managers may be concerned because they’ve never had to manage a remote workforce. For many staff this is the unknown.
When working from an office, managers have a clear view of what projects team members are working on. They can ask questions, have daily check-ins, and have whiteboarding meetings to make sure everything is on track.
That’s not the case when it comes to working remotely.
As a manager, you might have the desire to micromanage employees as they go remote. Instead, we suggest trusting people to perform until they prove otherwise. Employees want to do well; it’s your job to help them get there.
What will the future of working look like?
This is the million-dollar question. Some businesses have already returned to the office, whilst others have chosen to remain working remotely. Some are yet to decide and may opt for more of a ‘hybrid’ way of working.
Companies choosing this can see the benefits of remote working with productivity and wellbeing but also know the importance of engagement and collaboration. The best of both worlds so to speak.
The pandemic has certainly altered the working landscape and we will see a permanent shift away from the office – but to what extent?