April 13th, 2021 by Louise Cunnah
After a year of many office employees working from home, it has become the norm for us to conduct important meetings over video calls, send our co-workers an email or instant message when we need to ask them a question and eat lunch by ourselves at our kitchen tables. However, with the UK now starting to open up again after lockdown, could this be the end of the traditional office and the start of a primarily remote workforce? Even with the benefits working from home can bring, we’re not so sure.
Remote working isn’t a new concept and it was growing in popularity before the pandemic struck. In fact, during 2019, 5.1% of the UK population worked from home compared to 4.3% in 2015, with more and more businesses offering this as a perk in an effort to attract new talent and retain them.
Many business’ attitudes to remote work have substantially changed over the past year, with it teaching them that employees don’t need to be sat in their physical office in order to be productive at work. For this reason, JP Morgan, HSBC, Dropbox and Microsoft are just some of the large organisations that have said that some or all of their staff can continue to work from home permanently – even when social distancing is no longer required.
So, does this mean that smaller businesses should also follow suit?
Remote working is a perk that many employees have enjoyed during lockdown due to the time and money saved from not having to travel into an office 5 days a week. Not only that, but they have been given the freedom to work at a pace that suits them. No person is 100% productive during every hour of the working day – and when inspiration dwindles, your employees likely feel more comfortable stepping away from their desk and clearing their head in the comfort of their own homes.
However, we don’t think the pandemic and the ways we have had to adapt signal the end of the physical workplace. Instead, many companies will move towards offering flexible working to their employees, rather than having every one of them solely working from home.
This means that going forward, a large proportion of employees will likely spend a combination of their time doing their job from home and from the office, as well as having more control over the hours they work.
Why ‘remote working’ will become ‘flexible working’
Believe it or not, not every employee enjoys working from their sofa and wants homeworking to become the new normal – full-time, at least. According to a survey of 1,000 people conducted by Envoy and Wakefield Research in 2020, after COVID, 94% of employees want to work from the office at least once a week. You may also be surprised to learn that 46% of those surveyed said that five days was the ideal number of days to spend in the office!
The survey found various reasons for this, such as people missing going out for lunch instead of making it for themselves, and being able to spend time away from their families who can cause a distraction when working from home. However, the main thing that employees said they missed was face-to-face interactions with their co-workers.
Before the pandemic, it was normal for us to spend most of our time with our colleagues each week. We’d often grab lunch with them, attend meetings together, and have chats throughout the day as we worked from the same office. For those that live alone, seeing their team at work may be the only time they interact with someone face-to-face for days or even weeks, which can be a lonely experience.
Seeing your team members regularly also helps you build stronger relationships with them – and being friends with the people we work with can be massive morale and productivity boosters as this is proven to increase engagement levels. Additionally, if your staff feel comfortable confiding in each other when they’re experiencing issues, such as struggling with their workload or getting a particular piece of work completed, they can reduce stress and get their worries solved faster. A problem shared is a problem halved, after all – and sharing these conversations in person can feel much less formal than over a video call.
For these reasons, instead of a shift to full-time remote work, we predict that flexible working will become more prevalent and desired by employees.
How to enable flexible working
For many businesses, offering flexible working isn’t as simple as telling your employees to work whenever they want. It’s still important that there are overlaps between when your team members are ‘in the office’ (whether physically or virtually) for communication and productivity to remain high. For example, it’s advised to have core working hours that everyone in the business must adhere to each day (such as between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM on Monday to Friday), with any meetings being held in this time window.
With some meetings requiring face-to-face interactions, and many workers missing watercooler chats, you may want to offer employees the opportunity to work from home a few times a week, with the ability to change which days these are each week.
One way you can ensure that everything runs smoothly when managing a flexible working team is by investing in the right digital tools to help everyone stay connected. For example, Ayoa is a work management app that is perfect for distributed workers to collaborate together on projects and keep track of when their colleagues are available. Using Ayoa’s team pulse dashboard, your employees can add updates when they start work and clock off for the day, as well as give a brief overview of what they’re currently working on – so everyone is kept in the loop no matter where they are.
You should also make sure that your physical office space is set up to offer flexible working as staff should be able to enter and leave the premises at different times of the day without compromising your security. If you rent your office space, make sure to check this with the owner of your building to see if this is possible.
Looking for a new office in South Wales? Tec Marina is located just outside Cardiff, in the beautiful location of Penarth Marina, and is already set up for you to provide increased flexibility to your team. As well as offering 24/7 access to the building for residents, our friendly reception team will be on hand to handle your mail when you’re not in the office, as well as help you with anything else you need.
Our fully serviced offices are also regularly cleaned and include access to a free onsite gym, rentable meeting rooms and well-stocked kitchen areas, plus our building is a short walk from Cogan train station and a free public car park. To find out more about our available office space, give us a call on 02921 678391 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.