Written by Kieran Mullins (Partner Business Director)
World events have expedited the adoption of remote working as a general practice which has resulted in many of us taking part of one in the largest tech revolutions of recent times. Of course, the technical capabilities for remote working have been around for a while, but it is only now that companies have been forced into adopting them that it has become the norm.
Back in March, IT teams were set the challenge of enabling people to work from home productively and sustainably. Now we are more than 2 months into the mass home-working experiment, new questions arise as to how sustainable this method of working is and what happens next as the potential increases for returning to the physical office.
The psychological and productivity benefits of working from a shared space are evident; mainly because this is what we have always done. The trend over recent decades has seen the office space rethought to make it more collaborative, to remove physical structures which may impede our ability to converse with colleagues.
The office gives us routine and structure around which we can build the tasks of our day ahead. Arrive at 8.45am, chat with colleagues, PC fired up and ready to work by 9am and so on. The daily commute is a key part of this structure giving us time if we travel by public transport, to read a book or catch up on the news or emails, or, if we are driving or cycling, to listen to the radio or plan the day ahead. We are (most of us) showered and dressed and prepared for sharing a communal space.
With remote working that familiar structure is removed. The routines are different and new challenges can impact our ability to focus. For managers of people, it can feel like a loss of control when they cannot see whether staff are sat at their desks or ask them how they are progressing with a project. Of course, they can call or message, but it is a delicate balance to do this without constantly interrupting or seeming to be micro-managing.
Then there is the challenge of maintaining the elements of camaraderie and the sense of being part of a team when working remotely from our colleagues.
Here at Code we have a short get-together each morning using Microsoft Teams to discuss what we worked on yesterday, what we aim to achieve today and what may impede our ability to do this. It is useful as a way of creating structure as we have to be in front of our laptops at the same time each day, and for maintaining the human element that occurs naturally in the office environment.
But the question is, what do we do once the restrictions ease fully? Do we return to the office? Do we revert to our previous way of working as if this was a brief inconvenience that we coped with and then shelved the experience?
Some are saying that now Pandora’s box is open, there is no going back. It has been proven that people can adapt to home-working in an efficient and responsible way. We are learning how to manage the ‘new normal’ (personally I like this article from pre-COVID times which has common- sense useful tips for working from home https://uk.pcmag.com/software/62410/get-organized-20-tips-for-working-from-home).
Moreover, companies have invested in technologies which enable people to work from home. Diverting phone lines, deploying collaboration platforms, employing presence and productivity management tools, and by embracing cloud storage and high-level security solutions, projects have escalated from future aspirational level to scheduled and deployed within a matter of weeks.
The digital transformation is phenomenal.
After all this, surely it would be madness to return to old ways, wouldn’t it? Yes, a lot of the systems deployed are on SaaS delivery models, and yes, cloud technologies are designed to deliver maximum flexibility so the initial financial outlay could be reduced, but the effort of transforming the workplace and the individual effort of adapting to new ways of working need to be considered also.
For over 20 years now, SIP salespeople have been selling the dream of flexible working with the added carrot of reduced real estate costs for companies that embrace hot-desking and remote working. It may have taken a global pandemic for those benefits to be universally recognized but many companies are now considering their options around what the workplace will look like going forward.
In truth, the likelihood is that we will return to working in a way that resembles how it was before. A crucial difference is we, as workers, have shown that we can be as – if not more – productive at home than we are in the office. Even more importantly, the technology (by and large) has stood up to the test too. Superfast connection speeds, sufficient broadband, high-level security systems and excellent collaboration platforms – not to mention superb reporting and analytics solutions to manage all this – have all passed the test with flying colours.