The Government recently announced its plan to legislate the right for employees to request remote working as part of a National Remote Working Strategy. This will fall under a permanent framework for after the pandemic ends.
But what does this mean for businesses?
2020 was a stressful year for many, and there was a huge need for both employees and employers to adapt to a completely new way of life.
And although none of us want to see a repeat of the pandemic, there have definitely been some positive learning experiences that we can take with us, as we move forwards.
Adapting to a new norm
Many cited 2020 as the ‘great working from home experiment that nobody asked for’.
But now we’re in a place where both workforces and businesses have adapted. And both sides are seeing the benefits in flexible working for a better quality of life, as well as cost and time efficiencies.
Working at the office gives staff the opportunity to collaborate, ideate, be creative and leverage the energy that a group dynamic brings.
It also gives parents some much needed space and time to focus.
Working from home, however, can really help concentration for those who are normally busy with meetings. It’s also a great way to ease some of the stress out of the week as well as reduce carbon emissions and travel expenses.
And with isolation being extremely prevalent in many people’s lives over the past year, having the opportunity to balance home and work life will be a welcome opportunity.
The only challenge now is the fact that we’re living in a post-pandemic world. And that means creating the environments and infrastructure that support all of the necessary components we need to now factor in.
Getting the right balance – what do we need?
Yes, the pandemic has introduced a myriad of back to work requirements that businesses are now trying to navigate.
But as well as considering the things that we need, we also have the chance to choose what we want. It’s an opportunity to design a new way of working that suits the changes in balance we’re looking to make.
So, what can we come to expect?
Connectivity and communication
Whether we’re working remotely, in the office or a bit of both, communication needs to be fluid. The office dynamic makes it easy to have catch ups over coffee, updates as you pass by a colleague’s desk, or chats in the corridor.
Now, there is a lot more decision-making being made around how and when we communicate. And with everyone experiencing an influx in messages and notifications, this needs to be thought about carefully, so that people can interact easily, while taking care of their own wellbeing.
Also, a level of prioritisation needs to happen around more urgent communications, so that alerts can be delivered effectively.
Collaboration is another tricky one to get right while working remotely. But it’s not impossible and in fact, many are now finding new ways to collaborate online.
But the process of ideation can be easier when done in person and there are always going to be times when colleagues have the need to get together and be in a space where they are away from their screens.
Ultimately, there needs to be a way to organise this easily while sticking to multiple flexible working schedules.
Not always something people remember to keep up when in the supermarket, but it’s something we’ll be adapting to as we head back to the office.
But how do we organise and maintain this? In comparison, technical infrastructure can be more easily transformed. But changing how we interact within the exact same physical space as we were before, will need some careful thinking and preparation. Our buildings and offices were never set up for this, so we need to decide on how we’re going to adapt.
There are many of us who will want to be able to work flexibly, but we all have different schedules and needs. So, making these work within the context of a business or a large team, will be a lot more difficult to systemise.
We will need synergy and a level of technical intervention to give people the freedom they need to work when and where they want, while having overall control over the office space so that policies and compliance are still adhered to.
There are thousands of HR and facilities managers who are tearing their hair out right now at the prospect of trying to organise the return to work for their business. The compliance, the tracking, GDPR, employee privacy – they all need to be implemented. And an Excel spreadsheet is not going to remedy all of this – it’s too much.
So, there needs to be a way of tracking all of this automatically, so that it can be easily managed.
Reduced carbon emissions
The sharp decrease in the number of commuters over the past year has benefited the environment hugely. But many organisations will want to be able to prove their own reduction in emissions so that they can fulfil their corporate responsibilities in lowering their carbon footprint.
Technology for building the future of work
The future holds so much potential in designing a new way of working that suits everyone. But bringing it to life is all about having the right tools in place to enable the flexibility that employees ultimately want.