No longer is it a predetermined requirement that your people need to adhere to a totally 100% on site presence to perform the same work tasks that they can now accomplish remotely, utilising more efficient digital channels to support their day to day activities. Research shows that the scepticism many companies had about working from home may be eroding, and as part of a recent survey ninety-four percent of 800 UK employers surveyed said that productivity was the same as, or higher than it was before the pandemic, even with their employees working remotely.
Interestingly a growing set of larger companies, including Amazon, Capital One, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce and Siemens, have extended their remote-work plans (at least part time) into 2021, or even permanently. The adoption of such strategies now seems to be cascading into the SME sector, with several Northern based business implementing this as part of their short to mid-term business strategy.
In my experience, there has been a perception in many organisations that if employees were not seen, they weren’t working- or at least not as effectively as they would in the office, but from what I have seen first hand and through discussions with other business leaders, this forced experiment around remote working as a result of COVID-19 has shattered those perceptions to prove that most employees can actually be trusted to get their work done from home. As organisations are thinking toward the longer term, they are looking at how they can execute flexibility at scale to deliver on the value of agile working, like enhanced performance and productivity, a better employee experience, an expanded talent pool, and, in some cases, potentially reduced costs.
As a remote-work advocate I am not at all surprised at all by the findings, and companies I have worked with on previous programmes that facilitated a strong remote-working program have reported excellent productivity, with annual employee surveys reporting year after year find that people who work remotely say they’re more productive or as productive working at home.
At the start of the pandemic in March many businesses faced challenges with sourcing and procuring the appropriate equipment their people needed, whilst others faced other issues such as the optimisation of their VPN networks to ensure connectivity. Once these matters were resolved it seemed to be like a normal day in the office- albeit remotely, and certainly businesses who embraced more agile ways of working during the initial stages of the pandemic, with “an adoption of a digital shift and change in process to incorporate an increased operational manoeuvrability”, will no doubt be celebrating their new found successes with an added sense of rejoicing about what they have now left for dead.
I foresees that businesses will continue to establish better remote-working practices and organisations will equip employees with new or better tools to work effectively, such as virtual collaboration technology, and looking ahead into 2021/22 even after the health crisis has passed, I strongly suspect that businesses will embrace a continuation of more flexible work policies, such as allowing more people to work from home or letting them adjust their working schedules.
Companies should continue to foster the sense of freedom and control that flexible work options provide and build strong flexible work programs. These programs are a SMART way for companies to be prepared to handle any future emergencies. In addition to productivity, companies have talked about remote work’s positive impact in areas like employee health and wellbeing, cost savings, reduced environmental impact, business preparedness and continuity and others. Have we now passed the tipping point where working from home will need to become a valid and important component of any healthy organisation?
If you’re not yet positioned to to implement this as part of your shift, I would encourage you to undertake the following to instigate a strong foundation for flexible working:
- Change in policy and governance to permit the change to happen.
- More focus on Leader and Manager effectiveness to communicate effectively.
- To rethink talent acquisition and people onboarding- which in most organisations are not designed around a remote workforce.
- Consider how a flexible working strategy will impact where you source talent- moving to lower-cost labour.
- Infrastructure- channels, hubs and remote setup, as well as technology and security considerations.
There are many implications as companies seek to execute more-permanent flexibility, and organisations will need to plan effectively to ensure they achieve their intended objectives for flexible working.
If after reading this you’re still somewhat bemused as to even begin to chart your chosen path, why not get in touch for a free 1hr consultation. We’d love to hear from you and will be happy to sit down to discuss your challenges.