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The best aspects of remote working to take back to the office

by Sellick Partnership | 16 June 2020

The coronavirus pandemic is set to change the workplace forever. Since March, most of the population, with vastly different responsibilities and skills, have had to be creative and flexible  carrying out their jobs remotely, as best as possible. 

Many of these people would have previously said that it is impossible to work effectively from home, and while that will have remained the case for some, a lot of employees will have been surprised at how they have been able to adapt and add value to their business.

It is fair to say we have collectively made such a huge leap that, even after we return to physical offices, it will be difficult to forget the legacy that lockdown has left on our work. 

So, which elements of remote working are here for good, even if we are not remote working? As we move back towards traditional office working what aspects of remote working will you be taking with you?

Efficient communication

Despite the concerns of many employers and employees alike, who expected communication with colleagues to become more difficult during lockdown, a large proportion of homeworkers have reported communication actually improving in the pandemic.

In a study by productivity software company Time is Ltd., it was revealed that the average length of meetings for remote workers decreased by 10 minutes. It certainly appears that the use of video meeting software has made it both easier and more acceptable to leave meetings at the appropriate time, without them running over unnecessarily.

Not only that, but once we return to the office there should be no reason to turn our backs on the convenience afforded to us by video meetings. While it is difficult to substitute the level of interpersonal connection that can be built by conducting meetings in person, there will still be a place for video meetings in the office. Maintaining this will eliminate travel time but still produce effective results, all the while allowing us to focus on other important tasks that would previously have been left unfinished.

Creativity and innovation

The coronavirus pandemic has led to previously tech-shy companies and employees having to adopt new technology and processes quickly. This will not have been easy for many companies, but having been put in such an uncertain scenario with no option but to change the way they do business, they will now know they are capable of taking risks and trying new things when the situation demands it.

Once we return to the office, many of us will do so knowing that creating and implementing new ways of working that can drive our business forward is a realistic possibility, and a risk worth taking.

Trust

Working from home has resulted in a requirement for many employees to take on more self-directed work and responsibility, without being able to rely on constant contact with managers.

In addition, by nature, remote working has meant that managers and leaders have less visibility of what employees are doing throughout the day, with the knowledge that there may be more distractions — such as childcare and family members — at home. This has meant managers have had to trust that their employees are being productive and getting the work done.

An increase in trust and reduction in unnecessary micro-management once we return to the office can be a good thing, and can actually help to speed up the development of employees.

Empathy

Everybody appreciates that their colleagues and business contacts are going through a difficult period and, as a result, their mental health could be affected. With us not being able to physically see people and check in on them, we have needed to treat them with care and empathy perhaps more than ever before.

It is very likely that, once lockdown is over, colleagues will continue to deal with struggles and issues in their lives — whether coronavirus related or not — and we should conduct business with this expectation.

Just because people are no longer isolated and threatened by serious illness, it does not mean we should treat them with anything other than the utmost care, empathy, understanding and patience.

Flexibility

Arguably the best thing about remote working is the flexibility it gives to employees.

Removing the daily commute frees up significantly more time in the day for errands, exercise, hobbies, family time or simply more time to relax away from work. In turn, this has meant that staff feel less stressed and more in control of their lives.

This will undoubtedly be the biggest thing that workers will miss about being back in the office, but there is no reason why companies should not consider retaining or introducing more flexible working policies for their staff.

Many business leaders will now be under pressure to introduce more policies that allow for a healthier work/life balance, including:

  • Long-term remote working policies
  • Flexi-time — flexible start/finish times
  • Compressed hours — working full-time hours but over fewer days
  • Staggered shifts
  • Job sharing
  • Relaxed dress codes

These are just some of the positive elements that remote working in lockdown has brought to businesses which could (and should) be protected once we start to return to the office.

What do you think the best thing is about remote working that should be kept? If you would like some advice about returning to the office get in touch with our team today, we would be more than happy to offer some tailored advice.