Working from home is great, right? Well now, for many of us, it is going to be the new normal for the foreseeable future! What I have found really interesting is the change in attitude to working remotely, both from businesses and employees.
Were you ready?
I am so grateful to be part of a business that moved to homeworking very quickly and efficiently, and already had the technology in place. I already had the flexibility to work from home a lot, so the transition was pretty easy for me. But for those businesses that had no capacity to work from home at all, their transition was a lot more painful, trying to set up thousands of employees on to home working systems that didn’t exist. I’m sure many businesses were regretting being so unprepared.
Internally, we are possibly communicating more than we were before – team Skype calls, virtually celebrating our successes, daily updates from the board. From a customer perspective, I’ve had to get used to virtual meetings . I've always avoided them and found them awkward before, but I’m now getting more comfortable building a relationship on screen. Speaking with your team and your customers in their homes is much more personal than sitting down with someone in a corporate setting, and the crisis has, through the chaos, created some sense of community. Most of my clients are “over-communicating” too, which can only be a positive thing!
The frustration around a lack of flexible-working culture has always been common theme when speaking to people in my network. This was often a major factor in why people want to move business, and working from home was often viewed as the holy grail. So many times have I heard someone say that they could get so much more done when they are working from home. Now these individuals have a real opportunity to prove this to be true. I’ve sensed a real urgency from some people to prove that they can be not only just as effective, but more productive, at home, in the hope that this trust and flexibility continues after all this is over.
And employer attitudes are changing. Leaders are no doubt appreciating this added effort and eagerness that their teams are showing, and beginning to trust their employees more. And there are some real positives that working from home creates - our COO was grateful that being at home meant he saw his son learn to clap for the first time, a milestone he would have otherwise missed. We may have the opportunity to focus on projects that we might not find time to do in the office. To exercise before work. To get more done by saving 2 hours a day commuting. To learn new technologies. To be creative, to think of new ways of working and to stay connected. This is forcing us to evolve.
But we are only in the first week or so of home-working! And many of us will have a long time left to go. Already there has been a shift from “yay we get to work from home” to “I would give anything to go into the office today”. For those that may have previously seen it as a luxury, I think are now starting to appreciate that it has its drawbacks. Not to mention the fact that parents have the impossible task of working whilst their kids are at home, now the schools are shut!
What will the future of the workplace look like?
When this has calmed down, and we can return to the outside world, I see the conversation about flexible working being more open, but also more balanced between employers and employees.
Many employers have now realised that they simply can’t avoid allowing home working any longer. They are understanding that they have no choice but to be prepared technologically for working from home, or they will be left behind from their competition. Also I’m sure many businesses will now be less afraid of home working, more prepared, have more trust in their staff, and be more comfortable managing their workforce and performance virtually. They will hopefully see that businesses can still function when their workforce is home based.
But also, I honestly believe that employees will return to work with a real appreciation of what coming to work really gives us. Up until now we have taken for granted our commute, an office environment where we can really focus, a regular lunch break, an uninterrupted coffee. And most importantly, the ability to connect face to face with our colleagues, customers and our friends. I know that I miss going to work, and can’t wait to get the train up to London again, with a good book, watching the world go by out the window.
How do you feel about working from home?
Would love to hear your thoughts!
NB - January 2021 - An organisation called MindGenius picked up Penny's article and have written their thoughts about the challenges of Homeworking & Homeschooling in COVID-19