Engaging with colleagues to help form our new normal
When workers to return to offices, ‘Business as Usual’ is undoubtedly set to take on a different form. In the short term, working from home has become the new normal, but is remote working actually here to stay?
Working from home
20 years ago, the prospect of office workers being able to work from home effectively and still communicate with colleagues would have been challenging and highly inefficient at best.
However with the rise of the internet and the massive developments in communication infrastructure over the past two decades, remote working has become a natural and almost taken-for-granted part of many office-based roles.
In recent times, the discussion around the proportion of working from home vs. office based working has been well debated and in many ways, the recent Covid-19 climate has thrown this issue into even sharper relief.
Amongst the many questions that businesses are facing at the moment is whether remote working is a viable permanent option for them.
Engaging with our people at Novus
Throughout the lockdown, Novus engaged and continually communicating with colleagues to reinforce a sense of community.
One of the common bugbears of remote workers is the feeling of isolation from their friends and colleagues within the workplace. From the outset, we were keen to ensure that didn’t happen.
One of the ways in which Novus achieved this was through the “Helping Hand”, our weekly internal newsletter that (to name just a few features) provides motivational tips, updates from our people around the business, and useful updates.
In addition to the newsletter, we surveyed our colleagues via our ‘Pulse Survey’ to gain a measure on how our people were coping with lockdown life.
As part of the survey we asked our colleagues who are working from home:
“Coronavirus resulted in some of us having to work from home and working differently than we normally do.
How did this impact the way you worked?”
1. I felt I worked more effectively at home than when I’m in the office
2. I felt I worked less effectively at home than when I’m in the office
3. I felt that there was no difference
The results were quite conclusive.
- Nearly one third (31%) of the colleagues surveyed indicated that they were more productive when working from home.
- Just over half (55%) of the respondents felt that there was no difference and 14% suggested they were more productive in the office.
- These outcomes suggest that in terms of personal perception, 86% of Novus colleagues felt that they were at least as productive working from home compared to working in the office.
An increasing trend
It is clear that even before the Covid-19 outbreak that working from home was on the rise in the UK, with numbers increasingly sharply over the last decade.
Facilitated by improving technology, effective video conferencing software, faster internet speeds, and generally an ever more digitally connected population, the conditions have never been better for remote working.
And, this interconnectivity looks set to continually develop as new technologies are implemented.
Elon Musk’s Starlink for instance aims to blanket the planet with high-speed WiFi, accessible from anywhere in the World.
Productivity and working from home
The 31% of Novus colleagues who felt they worked more effectively at home, are amongst a growing number.
Advocates cite the reduction in stress, fewer distractions, and relaxed environment as potential sources of their productivity level output.
Of course, Individual differences and approaches to work are always going to play a significant part.
As one source suggests, “If you are an unproductive person in the office, then it’s unlikely to change when you work from home” (Regus) and vice versa.
From a cost perspective
In light of the costs associated with making Covid-secure adaptations to offices, one can easily make an argument for the financial benefit.
Investments in temperature checking devices, desk partitioning, and additional hygienic facilities will be certainly be required in the immediate term, that’s without mentioning the overheads of heating, water, and electricity. (You can read about what the post-lockdown office might look like here)
To a small business (or certainly to one that is suffering financially), these cost savings could make a big difference.
Additionally, there are the significant changes to the daily routine to consider.
Compliance with social distancing measures might involve movement restrictions, staggered break times, and reduced capacity – all of which are new policies that will require some time to become habit.
In that same vein, in small offices where social distancing is going to present a significant challenge, allowing at least a portion of the workforce to work from home on a consistent basis, will help to alleviate spacing issues.
A blow to company culture?
A healthy organisational culture is all about its people and the way they interact, collaborate, and communicate with each other.
It is potentially one of the areas that might suffer if working from home was to become a permanent fixture of the ‘new normal.
Particularly where close working relationships or friendships are concerned, there has been a considerable amount of research to suggest that face-to-face interaction is important for maintaining relationships.
Thus the sense of community within an organisation might be diminished and an even greater effort to maintain those ties over virtual media will be needed.
Technology giants making their move
In July, Google confirmed that it would allow its employees work from home for at least another 12 months and potentially beyond.
As is often the case, big players within “technology” have been quick to move on this issue; keen to uphold their brand image as innovators and forward thinkers.
One size never fits all
Whatever business leaders ultimately decide to do post-Covid-19, it can be certain that there will be vast differences between individual organisations and sectors.
It should be recognised that some people cannot work from home by the nature of the job or their access to/familiarity with technology, others (like our 14%) would not be in favour.
It remains to be seen whether a consensus can be reached on the matter in our industry and as a business. What we can be sure of though, is our continuing effort to engage our colleagues in order to find our ‘new normal’.
Watch this space.
Join the conversation
Do you have a view on the discussion? We’d love to hear it.
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