Are your staff currently working from home? According to the Office for National Statistics, almost 47 per cent of employees worked from home in 2020. We’re now at the point where many small business owners are reviewing their office requirements before restrictions are lifted. Balancing the benefits for both the business and employees, is not as easy as it sounds.
A recent BBC news article reported that even larger businesses are struggling to find that balance, with Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon rejecting remote working as a “new normal” and labelled it an “aberration” instead and suggested that it does not suit the “work culture” at Goldman Sachs.
So, let’s take look at some of the pros and cons of remote/home working:
- Costs – Can significant savings be made? Research suggests that office workers saved an average of £1,268 whilst working from home since the lockdown began in March 2020, due to the costs of their commute. Could business costs also be reduced by requiring less space, smaller offices or even switching to no office at all? Then there are the face-to-face meetings – a day out of the office with the expensive train tickets to the city – are they really necessary in today’s world?
- Work/life balance – No timely commute gives employees extra time to spend with family and flexibility to work different hours as needed. Some would say this then leads onto a better focus and productivity during working hours.
- Productivity – Depending on the individual, some can find the lack of interruptions, flexibility and lack of office gossiping means they’re much more productive at home in their quiet space (of course this also goes the other way, see Cons below)
- Wider talent pool – Meaning you can now consider hiring people that are not in close proximity to the office. Also, for many disabled people and those with health issues, working from home can be life changing.
- Health – How ill is too ill to work? How many times have we thought ‘I’m not that sick but feel bad and don’t want to pass on germs to the rest of the office’. Working from home can negate this problem and relieves the pressure on the employee to feel they must go into work.
- Costs – Is remote working adding additional costs to your business? Did you sign up to that 3-year lease for your amazing open plan office which is now an echo chamber with just you sat alone? Not to mention the added investment in all those new laptops, phonelines and broadband contracts of your remote workers.
- Work/life balance – The feeling that you’re stuck in the 4 walls of your home office and no distinct switch off time. Where you’d normally be in the office 9-5, you’re now finding your self answering emails at 8pm as your laptop is still on. Leaving the laptop and work in the office can be that definitive ‘off switch’ that is needed.
- Productivity – Do you know what your staff are doing and when? This can depend on the positions held, reliability and the experience of your staff/team. Certainly, new recruits need more development, training and one-on-one time.
- Technology – We’ve all seen the disastrous Zoom calls of the Handforth Parish Council and the US ‘I’m not a cat’ lawyer. Not to mention the dropping of signals, frozen screens or interruptions by beloved pets and family members! Then there is the cyber security aspect, how safe are connections on a home network?
- People – Many have cited how this past year has left them feeling lonely and even the ease and number of Zoom/Teams calls can never replace that face-to-face contact and daily office chat or banter, especially for those who live alone.
Businesses will need to balance the books, with overheads, costs and staffing, versus the potential business they think they will do post Covid and what kind of office culture they nurture. Of course, employees are also re-evaluating their balance and how they want to work going forward to suit their needs, balance and well-being. But the pandemic has proven that many more jobs than previously thought are now completely viable as remote positions.
There is certainly not a one size fits all solution here and we’d love to hear your thoughts on what changes you’d like to see in the new way of working!