We know that working from home brings advantages and disadvantages, but does it really help a business thrive and does this thrive mean improved economic benefit for a company?
Working remotely (mostly meaning from home) is nothing new, the pandemic only sped up the process and changed people’s views. It brought the issue of remote working to the forefront of business issues. Until 2020, remote working (choosing where you want to be) for the 9-5 grind was unrealised for many.
Post-2020, the number of jobs adverts offering remote working has risen as people have sought new jobs – the first UK national lockdown proved that it was possible for a prolonged period.
The results of quick job search are further testament to the change, remote only jobs are plentiful. It’s a sign that remote working is here to stay, with recent surveys showing that employers are realising the full potential of offering their employees work from home positions. The extended period of lockdown not only reduced the stigma of working from home but was a mass experiment in which real data and real experiences could be measured on a large enough scale. It gave so much more insight into the real gains and drawbacks – both the obvious and not so obvious.
The obvious and not so obvious…
Autonomy, more time, job satisfaction all resulted in healthier outcomes for those working remotely which in turn boosted productivity, however, the not so obvious crept in for a lot of home workers. Isolation for long periods, distractions, reduced knowledge sharing and team bonding resulted in a negative experience associated with remote working which lowered productivity.
My personal experience of remote working was one of mixed feelings – I felt that I produced more, and I knew I did as I had the output to show, but I also had this feeling of not being productive which affected my morale and required me to motivate myself more than if I went to the office. It’s a psychological thing because activity feels like productivity and since I didn’t have my usual morning routine and commute, I didn’t feel as productive. I know this not to be true, but we are conditioned as a society to feel this way and as humans we are emotionally driven, we look for rationalisation as to why something is not right when it “feels like something’s not right”. For me this was also not having that direct feedback, no matter how small, from my colleagues. For others it will be something different.
My ambivalence for remote working eroded as I settled into my new routine only to be uprooted with the shift back to office full time. Swapping stories will colleagues demonstrated how different we experienced it – you either flourish or didn’t. Interestingly, some who liked it weren’t as productive as when in the office whilst others who didn’t like working from home were more productive. This opens a new challenge – measuring the success of working from home in an objective manner that proves a real business case for working remotely.
Other gains only apparent after the prolonged home working during the first lockdown were not from a human / employee aspect but from a solid business one. The lower operational costs of running an organisation, especially overheads, became apparent. Rents and other daily expenses were slashed if not totally removed from the balance sheet.
Then there’s environmental impact of less traffic on the roads. In a time of increasing environmental concern, reducing the carbon foots print can only bee a good thing for the world economy of the future.
With human measurement like happiness and business measurements like operational costs – the true measure of success would need to be strong and one that involves a few variables.
Measuring for success
Measuring for success of a company’s work from home policy would involve many different variables with the human factors coming out top. In due course, it is mostly likely to be a blend of metrics that will determine success with profit being the deciding factor – after all that’s what business is about.
Although the long months of lock down highlighted the viability of employees working from home, we have yet to appreciate the real long-term impact of this shift. With some companies going back to the office, some embracing fully remote and other implementing a hybrid approach we can then observe and measure the real, long-term benefits that remote working has on a company. Many companies are still dubious about offering more work from home opportunities until all the benefits are known and their business is at an advantage from it.
What are long term benefits?
A work from home company policy and strategy is becoming increasing important to adapt to the changing demands of the work force but also necessary to attract talent. The right talent and skills for the business are important for continued success and for a business to thrive the people selection process can be widened to span the whole world. In areas, (geographical areas) where there are skill shortages – remote working offers a way to plug the skill gap for companies that would have otherwise struggled.
Long term employee satisfaction is another benefit that will become more apparent over time as it already known that working from home, the flexibility of it, results in increased satisfaction and so results in lower staff turnover. If you are a direct customer facing business this employee satisfaction has been shown to be passed on to customers, with improved customer satisfaction ultimately boosting revenue. It’s a knock-on effect and one that makes a difference to the company bottom line. These knock-on effects are harder to imagine in the short term but we, and businesses are starting to reaslise this. Having a flexible approach to remote working is investment that will pay dividends at some point in the future.
Overall, there’s a net benefit to a business in offering remote working. When it works it works and when it doesn’t there always the office. The main take away is flexibility. It’s with flexibility that business can respond and truly thrive and like any other aspect of a business it must be managed well.
Refusing to respond to the issues associated with working remotely and address each position and worker on an individual basis is inflexible and negatively impacts a business.
In the long run, time and experience will tell if it works for your business.