The way you work is changing! Will you be working from home after Lockdown?
For decades (a couple of centuries even) office workers have commuted to their offices every day to work and earn their living. Technology has grown to deliver methods and efficiencies to every desktop. It has also grown to be accessible almost anywhere on the planet. But companies have maintained all the old ways, with few embracing the new tech to full advantage.
In fact, working from home is not new. It used to be known as telecommuting, used by many to work at home, the airport, hotels and many other places for years. The systems I run have had a secure "work from anywhere" access for over ten years!
COVID-19 and the lockdown have simply shown us that working from home is something real and feasible. The working world is changing. Fast!
What Have We Learned about Working from Home?
The air is cleaner, there’s less pollution.
There’s less traffic, so the world is quieter. There’s less pollution, both in terms of vehicle exhausts and and noise.
The work can still be done, efficiently and with less stress, and mnore flexibility.
We don’t need that lengthy and costly commute to earn a living.
On the other hand, perhaps the kids are a handful, the broadband isn’t the greatest and you are getting cabin fever?
It would appear that working from home is better for the planet, and for many. But there still hurdles to be overcome.
So What Might The Future Hold?
Switched on management teams must be looking at productivity and cost. Is it cheaper to issue a laptop and provide external systems access?
In many cases delivering the technology is likely to be much cheaper than the lighting, heating and other costs associated with maintaining a large office.
Is it feasible or desirable to invest in co-working spaces across the country?
If that’s the case, then what about productivity?
A number of colleagues and associates I have spoken to indicate that they have seen a significant rise in productivity. That suggests that, by and large, that people are working from home effectively.
There have been many suggestions that companies are considering downsizing offices and adopting a mainly work from home approach.
Chats with workers suggest a more complex viewpoint. Many feel very isolated, and miss the social interaction of the office. Some struggle with the lack of a "home office" space, while others struggle with the boundaries between home and kids and work.
It does seem as if many have woken up to products like Microsoft 365, Zoom and Google Meet and trying to cram as many meetings as they can into the day. This has a downside. Homeworkers start to see the tools as "meeting rooms" rather than communication tools, which is not good. There are solutions to this – see below.
Many, however, have just run with it and are loving the reduced stress, lack of daily commute and more flexible work schedule.
Winners and Losers in the Working from Home Story
The winners, when it comes to working from home, are those who are making good use of the technology and really making it work for them. They find solutions and think about what they are doing. They have shown their employers that they don’t need to be in the office to work.
The losers here are those who don’t understand the technology or don’t use it well. Looking ahead, the managers holding on to the old ways of measuring work by the 9-5 "backside on the seat" ways will now have to think of better, arguably more modern, ways of measuring their staff productivity. Those who don’t may have a very lonely life as nobody will need to speak to them. Will they have a place as managers in the modern office?
Of course, there are still those who believe that working from home means taking a day off. Better monitoring of productivity will soon weed these out, and they will have to change or be unemployed.
Skilled and capable people will be looking for jobs with a strong work from home component. In fact, that was starting to happen before lockdown.
Employers will be under pressure to offer some level of working from home. They will need to start realising that strong and committed people will go to the companies which offer work from home as part of the normal routine.
Working from Home Solutions for the Future
Not every job role is suitable for working from home. A this time, not every office worker is happy working from home.
The solution lies in companies adopting a flexible "hybrid" approach, with home working part of the norm and clear guidelines for employees. HR departments, under the "duty of care" concept will need to be more aware of people’s state of mind to maintain the balance. Employees should be able to be in the office when necessary, whether that be to interact casually with colleagues, or for more formal occasions.
Cloud technology makes access to data and communication facilities easy. Remote access to in-house systems is not new. Companies which don’t have that will need to get their ideas up to date.
Most important of all is user training. The video and voice facilities are NOT just for meetings, they are communication tools. Employees should be encouraged to just have a chat regularly – not a business meetiong – just a social chat!
Employers need to commit to training staff more effectively.
At the same time you, as a home worker, need to embrace the fact that the technology is a tool for your use, just like a pen. You have a responsibility to ensure that you can make good use of the tools. Self training videos are plentiful online.
The Home Office
Not every worker has a home office and that can be a serious problem. There are co-working providers, such as WeWork, Regus and many more who deliver co-working space. These may be closer to employees than the office, offering a shorter commute.
Companies should be looking to engage with these providers, so that their employees who need to can have a close-to-home workplace.
In fact many employees do expensive daily commutes. Paying their own way with a co-working provider may be cheaper than the commute!
Remote working from cafes is nothing new. Many restaurants, pubs, cafes and the like will be struggling. Many of those have meeting rooms and working spaces. I believe that there is a huge, limited cost opportunity here for pubs and cafes to offer workspace to companies or individuals. This is especially true outside the big cities.
What You Can Do to Keep on Working from Home
Love working from home and want to continue after lockdown?
Do these things:
- Make sure you are doing your job effectively;
- Keep a record of what you have been doing at home, noting any highlights;
- Engage with your manager to highlight how effective it has been, and what further training may be necessary.
Not a fan of working from home:
- Think it through. This is the future and you need to embrace it;
- Identify why you are not happy, and try and see solutions;
- Engage with your management to find solutions.
I am old enough to remember the typing pool. Hand writing documents and then taking them to the typing pool, and trying to have a chat to the attractive typists. Once an important part of any large office, modern technology has done away with it.
At one time it was suggested to managers that they could use the computer and type their own letters and documents, instead of having a secretary. That caused a few arguments! How many managers now have secretaries?
The lockdown has given companies and workers a big kick. In just the same way as the typing pool and personal secretary were replaced by technology, so the way in which many people work will change radically.
It is up to both companies and workers to embrace the new ways.
The technology enables it. Make it work and improve the way people work. And contribute to the environment.
Keep on working from home after lockdown! Make your work life more fun!