The Rise of Remote Working
Remote working has been on the rise for a number of years. Data from the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that in 2015, 4.2 million people across a range of sectors worked from home out of the country’s 32.6 million workforce. And it was predicted that 50% of the working population of the UK would work from home by 2020.
Their predictions came good: In April 2020, further statistics released by ONS showed 49.2% of adults in employment were now working from home, as a result of the social distancing measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Covid-19 has significantly changed the way we live. And one of the biggest areas of life that has been impacted is the way we work.
Workers who had never expected to work from home, such as teachers, social workers and doctors, suddenly found themselves scrambling to set up home offices, delivering their services online and via video call.
Organisations large and small are having to restructure fast. Tech giant Google is allowing all global staff to work from home until July 2021 where the vast majority of the firm’s 4,500 UK employees will continue to work remotely. Other players, including Twitter and Facebook, have declared that their staff will become remote working permanently, or at least for a long time to come, giving a clear sign that remote working may become the norm once lockdown restrictions have eased.
The rise in remote working
Advances in technology and connectivity in the last decade has meant that there are many roles that can be worked from anywhere in the world, at any time of day or night, allowing both companies and employees far greater flexibility.
Systems such as Microsoft Teams, Office 365 and SharePoint enable colleagues to work collaboratively and stay connected with ease, with just a laptop and internet access. They can work from home, at the beach, or in coffee shops or co-working spaces closer to home.
The high and lows of remote working
Remote working offers many benefits to both employer and employee.
Studies carried out since the Covid–19 imposed lockdown has shown that employees have enjoyed not having to commute, reduced expenses and improved mental health. New research from Tilburg University also suggests that remote work is generally very productive, revealing that people felt working remotely allowed them to work more efficiently and have greater control of their workday. In fact, remote working has been found to increase productivity by 13-16%, leading to an average financial benefit of £4416 per employee each year.
However, there are drawbacks to remote working, such as loneliness, difficulty in switching off at the end of the working day and problems caused by inadequate technology. Health and safety is a real concern, as home offices are not always well designed for optimum wellbeing, and a lack of social interaction and meeting other people can mean that problems, particularly mental health problems, may go unnoticed by management.
Hire the best person for the job
Remote working reduces geographical barriers and opens up access to a larger talent pool no longer confined to geography. This increases the potential to hire the best people for the job, rather than the best person who can get to the office.
Cultural acceptance of remote working will encourage more companies to embrace a flexible approach. Experts suggest that employers may struggle to get staff to return to their offices now that lockdown has given them a taste of a different way of working. And if they choose not to embrace remote working, it’s expected they will lose out on talent to those that do. A survey by Zapier in 2019 found that 74% of knowledge workers would leave a job that didn’t offer remote working for one that did, and 26% reported that they have already done so.
Is remote working the new normal?
Removing the demands of the daily commute and the need to be in an office environment from 9-5 allows people to create their best working environment, to work in ways that suit them and apply their full creative potential.
From a shed in the garden, a dining room table at home, or the bustle of a coffee shop, when people are in the right working environment for them, they are more likely to slip into the ‘flow’ state that will allow them to produce their best work.
Of course, not all work is suitable for remote working all of the time. However, as the lockdown of 2020 has shown, remote working is a possibility for more professions than previously considered. As lockdown eases and the UK workforce contemplates a return to the office, companies and staff have experienced both the pros and cons and we expect remote working to go from strength to strength.
5 strategic ways to make remote working work:
1) A clear communication strategy
The most critical success factor for remote working is communication. From a quick daily catch up or weekly team briefing, you need to create remote opportunities to keep your teams motivated and in a positive mindset for success.
2) Employee wellbeing must be the top priority
In these challenging times, stress is naturally a real issue. When everyone is working remotely, it’s hard to keep an eye on employee wellbeing. So, it’s paramount to implement structures to ensure everyone is OK, (see point 1) and create guidelines to help them take care of themselves.
3) Reassess priorities and objectives
It’s not business as usual right now, so it can’t be delivery as usual either. And while working from home can be highly productive in normal circumstances, that’s may not be the case for some of your employees right now, who potentially are juggling homeschooling and family health concerns.
4) Transforming IT
Aside from making sure your IT systems are working seamlessly, reduced physical office space can release additional budgets to invest elsewhere – such as in new, collaborative cloud solutions like Microsoft Teams, to ensure that staff are able to remain connected. IT departments within organisations will also have to adapt, to be less of a facilities management operation to become more of a business – by proposing better ways of serving users and — by extension — the overall business’s customers.
5) Invest in training
If companies are adopting a digital-first, remote-working approach to their operations, then training efforts should really focus on those workers most vulnerable to job cuts and automation to address the challenges of worker displacement accelerated by Covid-19.
Is your organisation equipped to take advantage of remote working?
Find out how we can help your remote workers build best practice into their day-to-day experiences. Contact us today.