Tina Sood, Director, ARC HR Solutions
To say it’s been a funny old year would perhaps be the understatement of 2020! Whilst many industries have suffered tremendously during the pandemic, others have thrived. Working from home has become the new normal for thousands of employees and many organisations have found themselves needing to be more flexible and agile in the way they operate than they perhaps ever imagined… or indeed ever intended to be.
But what is the future of home working? Are we ready to ditch office life as we move into 2021? Have we hung up our suits and office attire for the long term?
As an Independent HR Consultant, I speak to many organisations and employees and a big topic of conversation this year has been working from home and both the positive and negative impact this might be having and could continue to have.
Companies who may have previously been reluctant to encourage working from home are certainly seeing the benefits and many organisations have announced that they intend to maintain the flexibility of remote working moving forward. There has certainly been an increase in the number of flexible roles which consider applicants who have a desire to work from home. This allows for your candidate pool to be opened up nationally, and even internationally in some cases, meaning you now have access to the world’s top talent at your fingertips.
Organisations are also considering how the move might have an impact on their property overheads and associated costs. With less people in the office on a regular basis is there a need to have a property at all? There is also the consideration to the environment with less commuter traffic on the roads and how each organisation could contribute to the global need to act on climate change.
All this is well and good but how is this affecting employees? From speaking to a number of ‘new’ homeworkers it seems this is a mixed bag. Many have enjoyed the additional time not having to commute has given them. It allows flexibility to achieve the work / life balance that has before felt like an unachievable desire. More employees are able to pick up children from school and have family dinners due to the additional time afforded by the lack of commute and the ability to work more flexibly in relation to start and finish times.
However, on the flipside many employees feel like they now live in the office. They find it difficult to switch off when work is only ever a few feet away and the laptop light is shining its torch down the hallway – and that’s those who are fortunate enough to have a home office. Many are working from dining tables and in communal living areas which is clearly less than ideal.
Communication is also a challenge and there is now a new term of ‘zoom fatigue’ which many are facing. Increased email communications have also left a feeling of a lack of clarity and a difficulty building longer term relationships.
Line Managers have also had to manage differently, and many have not been equipped to manage this transition from managing ‘hours in the office’ to managing delivery and outputs.
There are also many other considerations such as employee engagement, well-being and an organisations data protection and security.
So, is homeworking a short-term fix during a pandemic, or can the challenges be overcome to move to a new world of work? Or is there a balance to be struck between remote and office working?
Whatever your thoughts on the subject, it can’t be denied that 2020 has certainly made a change to how and where we work and that consideration needs to be given to the way we work moving forward in 2021 and beyond.