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Kate Cruickshank
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12.5.21

Office, Remote or Hybrid : What is the new normal?

Office, Remote or Hybrid : What is the new normal?

Amid the Covid-19 crisis, the ‘normal’ working life has changed for us all. Before the pandemic, remote working was rarely used full-time by businesses. Doing your job from the comfort of your own home was less mainstreamed with only 30% of the UK workforce previously having experience of working from home.

“Before the turn of the decade, remote working was something that so-called ‘cool’ or young businesses provided as a perk to attract rising talent,” said Anthony Lamoureux, CEO at Velocity Smart Technology.

Now that we move forward out of the pandemic, remote working is becoming more normalised and is seen as a long-term solution for flexible working. In 2021, 60% of the UK’s adult population are currently working from home. Businesses such as Twitter have even announced plans to make remote working a permanent option, offering staff the opportunity to work from home forever.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter states; “We want employees to be able to work where they feel most creative and productive.”

As companies make decisions on new working arrangements, they will be weighing up the pro’s and cons of each working style, debating the most apparent compromise: the expectation of greater creativity in new projects at the office, compared with greater productivity on existing tasks at home.

So how productive is remote working, and how does this differ from office working?

It was found from a Stanford Study that remote working can lead to a 13% performance increase, with 55% of employees (YouGov Plc Survey) stating they are more productive when working remotely. The opportunity to work from home can reduce stress as working in a comfortable space can help to ease anxiety and depression. Remote working also provides employees with flexibility, with employers finding that their staff are likely to take fewer sick days whilst working from home.

Taking into account larger environmental issues, a remote workforce equates to a reduced carbon footprint due to less employees commuting and a decrease in company overheads, as you will no longer have to pay for office space or supplies, which can be costly for businesses. IBM announced they have saved about $100 million annually since the beginning of their remote-work program.

However, the downside of remote working is the occasional technology problems. Velocity Smart Technology’s study showed that 70% of remote working staff have experienced problems with their IT, and other issues such as communication barriers and lack of technology readiness.

Research from Ezra, provider of Digital Coaching shows that although remote working allows for flexibility, 55% of UK employees claim they are more likely to work additional hours at home; whether that’s taking fewer breaks, shorter lunches, or working longer hours altogether, showing that ‘switching off’ after work can be the biggest challenge. UK workers also cited a lack of personal motivation at home with 20% of employees claiming that remote working has reduced recognition from their company.

Another disadvantage of remote-working is the decreased social interaction and team collaboration when based out of the office. It was found from Ezra’s research that employees can often feel isolated working at home, due to the reduced social interaction with colleagues, also finding that one in five remote workers struggle with loneliness. This is further reinforced with a recent YouGov survey highlighting that 47% of employees agree that they felt more detached from colleagues due to remote working.

In terms of building relationships with co-workers, office working seems to be the go-to. Working in the office allows staff members to create meaningful relationships and socialise with others, which is fundamental in building a vibrant company culture. Staff will quickly learn the interpersonal skills required to work alongside diverse groups of people, and communication skills will be boosted. Working with others in an office allows individuals to learn from others, acquiring diplomatic skills to resolve conflict, and accept differences, overall gaining invaluable experience within an office environment. Face-to-face collaboration with large teams can encourage creativity and innovation, and whilst this is equally possible over Zoom calls, nothing quite compares to in-person engagement.

Time management is another important factor when considering either remote or home working. As mentioned previously, people are enjoying the flexible freedom of remote-working, although are likely to work longer hours when working from home. When your home becomes your office, it can be difficult to close the laptop after working hours, often resulting in blurred lines between the work-life balance. Therefore, many UK workers can rely on the traditional in-office 9am-5pm for job satisfaction and to avoid burning out. After all, your home should be your source of rest and relaxation.

At the end of the day, when deciding on which working method to adopt, you don’t need to go all or nothing. With 31% of employees anxious about returning to the office post covid, some companies have chosen the best of both worlds by implementing a mixed-method approach. Large firms such as Google, Salesforce, Facebook and HSBC have already announced to be following a 3-day office and 2-day remote working plan, to boost employee satisfaction and productivity.

“I think it is going to be more socially acceptable for people to take the occasional day working from home.” Says Howard Dawber, the Head of Strategy at Canary Wharf Group.

A 2020 Salesforce survey of 3,500 workers, confirmed an eagerness for a hybrid approach of working, with 64% wanting to spend ‘some time’ working from an office or location outside of their households. While a mixture of remote and office working can cut costs and give employees more flexibility, it has the potential to hinder finances and productivity. Google has stressed concerns on their hybrid-working approach harming their ‘corporate company’ culture.

Remote and office working can mean different things to different companies. Businesses should reflect on the positive aspects of their company culture, to adopt a suitable strategy where the employee and employer can both benefit and strive from the working arrangement.

What’s the best way forward for your business and workforce?

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