It has been suggested that the Modern Office, which began in The Old Admiralty (Ripley Building), built in 1726 will soon be no more. Mark Twain famously quoted “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” I think the death of the office is similarly exaggerated. However, I do believe that the way people work is going to change. The traditional model of predominately office based working with “exceptional” arrangements for home or remote working will be replaced by a blended approach to working. I believe that mixing the office with remote working will be the future for the majority of hitherto office based staff.
The seismic change that has happened over the last 12 months has shifted the work management paradigm. The new work management paradigm will be a blended approach with mix of people working from home and working and collaborating at the office.
There a number of factors that will give this approach momentum:
Cost: as well as the obvious savings of reducing the office overhead a number of services have been moved away from the physical location of the business, but have functioned well. This may also give some momentum to outsourcing.
Change to working habits and Career Plans: The Aviva “How we live Executive Report” (September 2020) reported the following:
- That half of workers – 53% – plan to make changes to their careers in the next 12 months as a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
- The most popular career aspiration emerging from the crisis is the desire for flexibility. More and more people have got used to working from home during lockdown, as a result one in 10 (10%) UK workers said that in the next 12 months, they aim to find a role which will allow them to work from home.
- Covid-19 has also expedited some people’s retirement plans. Within the 55-64 age group, 10% of workers say they plan to retire within the next 12 months, as a direct result of the Covid situation.
This is likely to result in employers having to offer flexible working arrangements to either prevent staff leaving or to find replacements for vacant posts.
Technology: Web based applications such as Office 365, and video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, MS Teams and Google Meet means that physical location is no longer important for getting the transactional work done.
However, home working isn’t a panacea. The “Working Anytime, Anywhere: The Effects on the World of Work” Report (2017) noted:
- 41% of employees who more often worked from home vs. on site considered themselves highly stressed, compared to 25% of those who worked only on-site.
- 42% of those who work from home report frequent night waking, while only 29% of office workers reported the same.
- Employees who work from home may experience more of a blur when it comes to work and personal life boundaries, especially with the use of smart devices.
- Work from home employees may struggle more with the concept of unplugging and ending their work day compared to those who work in an office setting.
- Nearly half of working-from-home employees feel under pressure to show how hard they are working and are also working longer hours, the research discovered.
Unless it is proactively managed working from home can lack structure. Employees can struggle to organise their day. Starting and finishing on time, taking lunch and having breaks.
A problem with home working is there can be too many distractions. The temptation to do something else, e.g. watch TV, look at Social Media.
Setting boundaries can be a challenge. Working from home is still working. Home based workers may find it difficult not to engage with family members, friends, and neighbours during working hours.
From another perspective, solitude and social isolation can impact on motivation. Research suggests that it can be beneficial to have some level of social interaction during the workday. In high intensity work, Isolated individuals are often less productive.
Employees working from home are at risk of getting less exercise than they would done in the office environment. Lack of exercise can impact on sleep quality and overall mental health. Less activeness during the working week may influence how tired someone is during their work hours, this may negatively impact sleep, and subsequently work performance the next day.
Although managing home working can be a challenge, there are some easy and inexpensive things that can be done quickly to manage home working:
- Establish structured daily check-ins: Establish a daily call with your remote employees. This could be either a series of one-on-one calls, or a team call, if you want to encourage collaboration. The calls must be regular and predictable, and that they know they can consult with you, and that their concerns and questions will be heard.
- Use video conferencing rather than relying on just calls and e-mails: Video conferencing has many advantages, especially for smaller groups: Visual cues allow for increased “mutual knowledge” about colleagues and also help reduce the sense of isolation among teams. Video is also particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations, as it feels more personal than written or audio-only communication.
- Create collaborative channels amongst remote members of work groups: Provide mobile-enabled individual messaging functionality (like Slack, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.) which can be used for simpler, less formal conversations.
- Establish “rules of engagement”: Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations, rules, timings and mutual obligations. E.G. We use Zoom for daily check-in meetings, but we use IM/WhatsApp Group/Telegraph/Slack when something is urgent. Finally, keep an eye on business communication among team members, so I would suggest that formal communications must take place through the following channels/Groups…. This is to ensure that they are sharing information as needed.
- Offer encouragement and emotional support: it is important for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles. Even a general question such as “How is this remote work situation working out for you so far?” can elicit important information. Ask the question, listen carefully to the response. Remember to make the employee’s stress or concerns (rather than your own) be the focus of this conversation.
This blog was posted by Sean McCann the Managing Director of People Based Solutions. People Based Solutions are experts in managing remote working. They have the expertise, systems and resources to allow their customers to effectively manage their remote workforces. As well as the legal implications, contracts, insurance and Risk Assessments they support their customers to manage the productivity, engagement and mental wellbeing of their remote workers.
If you want to know more about how People Based Solutions supports home based or remote working, or to get in touch click here.