The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced each and every one of us to make changes to our everyday lives, with thousands of businesses quickly adapting to remote working patterns over recent months. Many companies have discovered just how beneficial remote working can be, with tools like Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) and Google Voice offering real solutions to some of the most common challenges around working from home. However, as lockdown restrictions lift and we enter the new normal, Fintan Murphy asks if remote working is here to stay.
At Damson Cloud, we think that some of the changes we’ve seen over the past few months will be permanent – and we certainly think that remote working is here to stay. Millions of people across the globe moved their workspaces into their own homes in what will be seen as one of the most widespread and widely adopted changes driven by the impact of Covid-19. Indeed, in many cases, this culture was already gaining traction. Over 16 million Americans worked remotely before the outbreak, with that number skyrocketing by the time lockdown arrived.
Getting to Grips with Remote Working
The truth is that many workers across the board have long hinted that they would prefer a remote working option in their job, with a whopping 80 percent of employees stating that they would actually turn a job down if that degree of flexibility wasn’t on offer. Now that remote working has become an integral part of everyday life, it’s worth taking a look at what workers’ expectations may be going forward. We’ve been working on a remote basis for over a decade, and there are plenty of pointers we can share around this.
For our team, office lockdown restrictions and other limitations didn’t really impact our business here in Ireland. We already had all of the necessary infrastructure in place, including home office setups; broadband, communications platforms and everything in between. We also had all of the correct cultures, processes and people aspects brought together in a way which makes remote working effective, productive and inclusive. After all, technology isn’t everything, and we touched upon getting remote working culture right shortly after lockdown (check it out).
Just recently, we spoke to two Irish companies with approximately 250 employees each. A survey found that roughly 5 employees out of 250 would be happy to volunteer to work in the office, and that is an incredibly telling statistic. Whilst this data has undoubtedly been shaped by anxieties around the virus, we think it nonetheless shows a deep desire amongst workers to have more flexibility and options in their working lives. Remote working ‘culture’ is on the rise, and we firmly believe that you can create that workplace culture by taking the right steps.
Investing in Culture and Infrastructure
We recommend starting this process by taking a close look at your employees’ individual setups. From experience, we know that not everyone has the same setup – some may not have access to their own office-style room, for example. At Damson Cloud, we set aside part of our budget to ensure that our employees have a proper setup. This includes a chair with proper back and neck support, a good desk as well as ensuring that their environment is a happy and productive place to work. We’ve even assisted our staff when working in hot-desking scenarios, often allowing them to work closer to their offices if meetings are required.
Culture-wise, it pays to begin by assessing your internal communications and how this may help or hinder your remote working operation. Internal communications tools such as Happeo will see an increased uptake in future months, and video messages recorded by business leaders will become the norm.
What many remote workers miss is that watercooler moment – stopping to chat to their colleagues or taking a quick break over a coffee. We saw a really cool example of a large company who hosted random meetings between employees, helping employees meet and familiarise themselves with each other and creating that feeling of serendipity that many of us like about an office setup. Measures like this are really helpful. Regardless of the choice you make for your business, we think regular meetups are essential, and will be even more important in the new future.
Creating Trust Through Task Management
Let’s move onto task and project management. Surveillance and productivity software is becoming more and more popular. However, at Damson Cloud, we don’t believe in monitoring peoples’ working day, 9am-5pm. We believe in giving our employees autonomy and responsibility, instead looking at outcomes on a weekly or monthly basis.
There are a lot of tools out there that offer monitoring functions. We advise that companies steer away from this approach wherever possible, instead bringing in cultures and tools that enable indirect communication, such as task managers and shared calendars. At Damson, this allows us to see what our staff are doing without having to ask them – after all, what manager wants to spend time doing this?
The time to begin thinking about remote working is now. Whilst lots of ideas are floating around about returning to offices, many companies are considering introducing remote working on a 50/50 basis split between the office and home. Regardless of your choice, you need to start thinking about creating a culture that supports your business years down the line. The companies who start preparing for this change now are the companies who will succeed.
The Future is Now
That moves us onto our next question: how will this massive paradigm shift towards remote working impact on society as a whole, in terms of work/life balance and connecting with our loved ones? We hope that workers will be able to use the time they are saving on their morning commute to focus on other elements of their lives that make them happy – even if that’s something as simple as taking the dog for a walk or going for a job.
It is important to acknowledge that not every business can adapt to remote working, and we should all play a role in supporting those businesses who rely on our footfall and personal interactions, including cafes and restaurants. Even businesses like these will have to adapt their business models to cope with a new, remote working demand which has seen food delivery skyrocket in popularity. The paradigm shift will have negative consequences for some businesses, and positive consequences for others. Either way, businesses will make a wise investment by thinking outside of the box today.
Finally, it’s worth thinking about how the international shift towards remote working will influence our decision-making around homebuying, and what constitutes a home office space. Is there a spare room with a nice window? Is there attic space which could be converted into a home office? These questions are going to be considered in much greater detail, and we predict that home offices will become a much bigger feature of real estate and property rental advertising in the near future.
We also predict that hot-desking businesses will crop up all over, as opposed to being focused in cities, which has traditionally been the case. For workers working in rural communities, this predicted trend should come as a great relief.
More About Damson Cloud
We’d be really interested in hearing some of our followers’ own experiences and any changes that they’ve seen in their own businesses since moving to remote working. Has your business embraced remote working, or has it experienced some challenges along the way? Do you have any of your own ideas around how remote working should be done properly? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel. For more updates straight from the team at Damson Cloud, be sure to sign up to our shiny new newsletter!
As a longstanding member of the Google Cloud Partner program, Damson Cloud specialises in bringing people and ideas together through new ways of working. We champion the very best practices in remote working and change management, helping companies and their teams collaborate productively from anywhere in the world. To find out more about our services, check out our library of tutorial videos or our blog.