News & Insights
It has been more than a year since the pandemic first reached our shores, forcing millions of office staff to adapt to new ways of working.
But, as a phenomenon that has affected a huge portion of the population, both employees and employers have mixed views concerning the viability of remote/hybrid working.
There is also great debate about whether these habits should be adopted permanently.
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WFH stands for working from home or work from home. The abbreviation is often used in digital communication to notify colleagues that someone is working from home on a given day or for a temporary period instead of regularly reporting to a physical place of business.
Signing into the online world of Zoom and Teams has become part of the daily routine for many, effectively replacing the need to be ever-present in the office.
However, not many predicted that their kitchen table would become their workplace for the next 14 months. Indeed, the flaws of WFH productivity are largely routed in technology and physical set-up, rather than the personality of the individual.
Younger members of staff often relied upon the technology supplied to them by their company. Many larger businesses have provided employees with laptops for hybrid use in and out of the office or they will need to going forwards. That being said, a major concern for businesses is now the lack of internet security in employees’ homes and how this will be managed.
Senior individuals within companies may have relished avoiding the long commute and had the money to invest in new chairs, second monitors or even garden studios to formally commit to remote/hybrid working for the long term.
However, after such a long period of meeting virtually, many remote workers are thought to be suffering from “Zoom fatigue”, regardless of whether these individuals were inclined to commit to working from home full-time in the future or not.
Ultimately, WFH has left staff craving the social and collaborative interaction with colleagues that can only be achieved in-person.
A huge amount of research has been undertaken to try to determine the outlook for future working habits amongst office-based employees in the UK:
Over the past few months, prominent companies have each had their own take on the concept, with a large number accepting hybrid working as an option.
At the beginning of the year, Unilever announced that none of their worldwide desk-based employees would be required to work in an office on a permanent basis.
Similar decisions were made by John Lewis & Partners and HSBC, whose CEO said that senior managers have also left their private offices in favour of hot-desking on the days they are in the building.
This contrasts markedly with the outlook of Goldman Sachs CEO, David Solomon, who has bucked the trend of big businesses by calling remote working an “aberration”. He has highlighted that for “a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us.”
A survey report conducted by management consultant firm, Robert Half, also highlighted a key consideration for adopters of this new hybrid model:
“The talent pool will become an ocean. As organizations increasingly adopt a remote-first approach, they’re realising the value of recruiting outside their city.”
Indeed, the Microsoft Surface report, Work Smarter to Live Better, also alludes to the fact that UK businesses will need to adapt to the requirements of employees in the new post-COVID world.
Importantly, 56% of surveyed workers felt their happiness had increased since working from home. Businesses will therefore need to re-evaluate their workplace design in order to create a place to promote staff productivity and bring colleagues together in-person.
Current and prospective employees will require an office with benefits that outweigh those of working from home. Furthermore, the ability to work from home when required, in a hybrid format, may also be seen as a differentiator between working for one business or a competitor.
Despite the success of the vaccine rollout, and the upcoming relaxation of restrictions from the 21st of June, a return to the office in the form of a five-day working week would appear extremely unlikely for most, at least to begin with.
Ultimately, the pandemic has allowed office staff to test drive a new style of working. Whilst workplaces will still be required for companies to attract talent, nurture company identity and act as a space for collaboration, WFH could be combined in a hybrid model to compliment and develop a “new normal” for office working habits.
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