The Lockdown Has Proven That Many Businesses Can Function With Employees Working From Home. Will Remote Working Be The Future?
With some of the lockdown restrictions lifted and the news that retail shops will gradually begin to open again throughout June, considerations as to what life might look like post-lockdown have already started to emerge, with particular focus on the future of work.
With the message at the start of lockdown being ‘Anyone that can work from home should work from home’, many businesses closed offices and sent employees home to begin working remotely.
People set up their home offices, jumped on Zoom calls, and have continued to work as ‘normally’ as they can. Despite the odd technical glitches, working from home has seemed a success for the most part.
With many larger companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Spotify making statements in recent weeks that they will embrace remote working indefinitely, this begs the question of ‘Will remote working be the future?’. Many companies are realising that in the future, in the fast-moving world we all occupy, the ability to pivot and adapt to changing circumstances, and quickly, will be vital if they are to survive.
Yes, a remote workforce offers business flexibility, but could it also offer employees a better work / life balance? Time that would usually have been lost to a commute can be taken back and spent with family or exercising. Lunches on-the-go can now be upgraded and enjoyed, and fewer desk-side distractions could mean reduced stress levels and increased productivity. All of these aspects could promote improved wellbeing and happiness among staff.
We’ve also seen over the past few months how the impact our action, or inaction, can affect environmental issues. A study from the University of East Anglia shows that global daily emissions dropped by a maximum of 17% during the peak isolation period of early April in comparison to the 2019 average daily levels.
Accounting for almost half of this drop on the 7th April, at 43%, was surface transport, such as car journeys. With this in mind, if staff can work from home and spare their car journey commute, surely this should be an option in order to attempt to halt the further increase of carbon emissions.
The effects of the slowing economy in recent months are already becoming apparent; and with the prospect of an economic downturn looming, businesses will be looking for ways in which they can save going forward.
With staff content with working from home, businesses could make potential savings downsizing the normally highly-priced city centre office space they rent. For staff that did still want to attend the office, a rotational attendance system could be put in place.
There seems to be a strong argument for companies to consider offering home-working to employees, in that it benefits both the employee and the business.
The important issue here will be finding a balance between reaping the benefits of working from home and retaining the sense of community an office space offers, without losing the creative network a city offers, while ensuring that ideas are still imagined and that creativity and collaboration can still blossom. Will meeting virtually for a coffee feel the same as meeting in person, and will it still allow the chance to stumble upon an idea for a new start-up? Society as a whole has proven its ability to adapt in recent months, however, so perhaps this is a process that will continue to evolve.