Remote Working: Evolution Turned Revolution?

  • May 4, 2020

The entire world is in a state of flux. Life as we know it has changed overnight, and not only does the Coronavirus pandemic dominate the headlines, it completely saturates them. There is very little happening in the world that is not affected by or is not related to the pandemic.

There’s a lot of conjecture about the far-reaching implications of COVID-19, and not least the economy and global business community. There’s the question not merely of whether entire industries will survive the pandemic and have lucrative trading futures, but also about how the very structure of businesses and society may be forever changed.

Working from home is mandatory for many

In the natural world, an extreme event can result in rapid and exaggerated evolutionary progress. The world of office-based working has been gradually evolving over decades with numbers and proportions of people working remotely increasing as technology has succeeded in making the world a much smaller place. Communication and collaboration are now concepts that transcend time, distance and geography. We all carry the tools to be connected audiovisually with the entire world in real-time, at just the touch of a screen.

Resistance to change may change overnight

The technology and infrastructure for this style of working has existed within most organisations for a long time – the resistance to change has been the presumption that productivity levels will be adversely affected, or that remote-working could be an isolating experience that would leave people with colleague-shaped holes in their social lives or mental health and wellbeing deficits.

Could the coronavirus epidemic actually have triggered a global experiment in working practices? Is this an extreme event that will rapidly accelerate the evolution of home-working?

IT industry has always been ahead of the remote working curve

Employees in the IT sector, by the nature of their roles, have always leaned towards working remotely. The privilege of working from home has long been on the shopping list of tech candidates. Many companies are now learning first hand that remote working is effective, efficient and comes with a myriad of benefits, with little adverse effect on productivity.

By utilising Google Hangouts, Zoom, Teams or other video conferencing platforms, teams and managers can stay connected and working together, even though they are physically distanced. As more and more employees get a taste for the benefits of home working, is there any reason for this trend not to continue?

The pros list is lengthy and includes benefits to the environment as well as the work-life-balance of employees. As for productivity, there’s no greater argument in favour of home working than the potential for time freed up by scrapping the daily commute alone. The average commute in Britain is 58.4 minutes, this constitutes a whopping 508.8 hours a year of travelling to and from work – 59.77 average workdays to be precise. Just what could be achieved with that extra time, both personally and professionally.

How will offices adapt to new habits?

Obviously, not all roles can feasibly be carried out from home, but if in simple terms this temporary experiment leads to a huge upsurge in remote working, what could the office-based working landscape begin to look like post-coronavirus?

Many of our clients have already mentioned considering downsizing premises. How will this impact the commercial lettings market, and prices?

And if businesses do downsize their office space, what will offices look like? There’s already been an upsurge in the market for offices with fluid workspaces with areas that can segue from workstation to social hub seamlessly. Will people forgo designated workstations in favour of hot desks, and as naturally territorial animals does this fill us with dread?

What are the implications for employers in terms of their increasing responsibilities for employee health, safety and wellbeing when they cannot manage the physical environment in which their employees work? If this is a question affecting you and your teams currently, the CIPD have a really helpful guide to getting the most out of remote working for employees and employers available here.

Homeworking may be possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily optimal

One of the major barriers to increased home working arrangements has been concerns about mental health. Working from home isn’t for everyone, and many people thrive on the routine of getting out of the house and going to the office. In a survey by Offices.co.uk last year, 28% of homeworkers reported stress or anxiety as a result of feeling isolated from colleagues. But if everyone’s in the same boat, do those feelings still apply, or is that just misdirected FOMO about water-cooler gossip or after work beers?

It’s business as usual here

Obviously, at Intec Select, the health and safety of our workforce and their families, and playing our own part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 is of great importance to us. We have found that, despite our team working remotely, we have been able to operate without a negative impact on our efficiency.

Throughout the pandemic, we are continuing to find and refer candidates to our clients. If anything, we have had enhanced access to candidates who can speak freely without prying ears or eyes in their current workplaces. We are holding interviews over Zoom or Skype, and for those who are successfully offered positions new starter arrangements are based on remote working in the first instance. Is there a reason this couldn’t continue? We can’t see why not, and we are interested to see how workplaces change in response to this unprecedented situation.

Whatever your requirements, whether you’re looking for your next role or to expand your team, contact our team to discuss your needs. We may not be in the office but we are just as available as before.

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