When COVID-19 hit, lots of things changed seemingly overnight. The biggest and most profound impact of course, is that many more of us are now stuck at home and spending considerably more time at the kitchen table or home office. We are not only spending time with family on the weekends, but consistently throughout the week.
More businesses that ever before – by a HUGE margin – have been forced to allow their team members to work from their homes.
And so around the world, people have set up home offices, or moved their laptops into the kitchen. Very often, couples are now working together on the couch, and all while their kids run around the living room in front of them!
Companies meanwhile have had to adapt. They need to find ways to track employee work hours, they need to make sure that the work is actually being done, and they need to try and provide a semblance of the service they once did.
For some companies this is easy. If you are a magazine publisher, then your team can hand in their articles online just as easily as ever.
For others, this is not so easy. If your business works with a lot of highly sensitive data, then having so many people remotely connected to your network on home computers is going to present issues. Likewise, if you need to have people to greet customers and client, or if you need to answer calls, you’re going to need to get creative!
Team meetings now take place on Zoom and Skype, and other software like Slack and Asana are now essential.
But here’s the thing: whether you view this as positive or negative…the change is largely here to stay forever.
Just six months ago, many managers and CEOs would never have imagined providing their team with such flexible work options. And yet here we are.
The Unexpected Public Beta
So, what’s the issue? Why can’t we go back to the way things were once all of this settles down?
Why does this represent the opening of Pandora’s Box?
The simple answer is that people have now had a taste for working from home. Not only that, but you have demonstrated that it is possible for business to continue relatively normal, even with most of your staff remote.
Again, this won’t be true for every organization. Some businesses have been put completely on hold. Many labor jobs don’t even make sense in an online context!
But so many others have now demonstrated that they are able to function to their full potential offline.
So, when your member of staff comes to you and requests that they work from home three days a week, you can’t very easily tell them that it’s not possible. They know that it is.
So, how many people are likely to want to permanently work from home?
The truth is that the benefits simply outweigh the negatives working from home.
Sure, it’s not perfect.
For one, working from home means that you won’t be able to exchange gossip with a colleague sitting next to you. It means that you need to rely on your own WiFi. For many people, it means that there is no escape from their four walls, and no change of scenery.
For an extrovert, being trapped in a home office might feel like a nightmare. Many people will also find it very difficult to focus on work when they are surrounded by so many much more exciting things that they want to do.
But for a lot of other people, the pros are going to outweigh the cons.
Let’s start with the big one: no requirement to commute. Many of us have become accustomed to commuting 30-90 minutes to and from work every single day.
That’s up to three hours of our lives wasted per day. The sheer cost of this commute is also huge and cutting it out means a massive financial saving: far greater than any normal pay raise.
It is not as hard for a company to move to online work as you might think. Through cutting edge solutions like Citrix Workspace with Intelligence, companies can provide employees with all their necessary resources securely and effectively. A2K Partners can synergize remote and office work to make companies more productive than ever before while promoting employee experience.
It’s a Benefit for the Business Too
But it’s not just advantageous for the employee. This is also extremely beneficial for businesses, as long as they are ready to grasp the opportunity with both hands.
Once you have adapted to the new normal, you’ll no longer be required to spend large amounts of money on office spaces. You could save a huge amount of money simply by removing the need to pay rent or even downsizing brick and mortar establishments.
Then there’s the fact that offering flexible work opens you up to employ people from all walks of life, and from all demographics. You could hire someone on the other side of the world, meaning you could get a professional with precisely the right skillset, for a fraction of the amount it would cost you to hire and train someone from your local talent pool.
Of course, this has further knock-on effects for employees. The words “be careful what you wish for” spring to mind.
It’s worth noting that there is such thing as middle ground, and there are many ways to balance working from home with working in a more conventional manner. This is something that many businesses have been doing long before COVID-19 hit.
Consider companies like Crowdcat. This is a business that offers data science communications, and that has found unique ways to navigate working from home.
CEO Richard Summers explained to Forbes how the company found having people work from home broke a lot of the unity and communication across the team.
Their solution? Allowing their employees to hire spaces to work from. That way, they could quickly set-up in-person meetings, and to spend time together.
Another way the company attempted to address issues surrounding team-building and friendships in the office, was by introducing a couple of rules. One such rule is that any 60-minute call should include 5-10 minutes of small talk and personal conversation. This not only helped the mental health of those working remotely, but also built more personal bonds between team members.
Another solution was to use residential offsites for week-long stays. They found that, this way, they could not only accomplish a large amount of work, but also help build very real bonds over a short period of time. The agency now also sends its team on trips for team building.
In short, the notion of team building might now be more important than ever.
Moreover, these options show that there are always third options and middle-ground possibilities. If you want to keep your team united, then you can find other ways to do this.
So it is with many of the other issues that you might face. For example, you will probably find that you have entirely new security issues to wrestle with now that there are so many more computers connected remotely to your networks. While this might seem like an insurmountable challenge, there are many solutions, such as investing in better computers and training for your team.
And if your business/personal sense of wellbeing has been suffering over the last few months, just remember that this is not an accurate picture of what a work-from-home culture looks like. Right now, you are working from home and unable to blow off steam elsewhere. You might have issues with childcare too.
Once things go back to “normal,” you’ll likely find you can appreciate the benefits of working from home more than ever.
But of course, there is the other issue and the other reason why remote work isn’t going anywhere: there is no guarantee that “normal” is coming back. Who knows how long it could take for the pandemic to be completely eliminated. And even then, who knows what the new normal will be.
A2K Partners understands that companies were not ready to move to remote working, but they do not need to scramble when coming back to the office. Schedule a discovery call today to discuss our many proven strategies for secure remote work scalability and the transition back into the office.