How flexible working will become the new ‘normal’

By Graham Hill

November 24, 2020

1. How flexible working will become the new ‘normal’

It seems highly likely that Covid-19 has permanently altered our working habits. Back in March, practically overnight, we had to swiftly find new and innovative ways of working. From finding the best way to keep in touch with teams, suppliers and clients, to juggling jobs with home-schooling children – not always an easy feat! – we showed an extraordinary ability to reconcile worklife with homelife. This was, of course, out of necessity at the time. We had no choice. But now, with several vaccines on the horizon and the end of the pandemic in sight, will flexible working be embraced longer term? Or will most of us be back in the office five days a week, before we know it?

Video: Working from home  can have its own unique challenges…

2. Flexible working… works

During the month of April, nearly half of employees carried out their jobs at home. Not only did many of us prefer working there, but research suggests that a third of employees actually worked more hours than they would have done in the office. This might be due to having fewer interruptions, or being able to focus better on a particular task. But studies have also proven that happier workers are 13% more productive. Those working at home tend to manage their work/life balance better, plus remote working eliminates the need to commute, which many find a stressful part of the day – this may all be reflected in a better quantity and quality of work.  

The benefits for businesses are also considerable. The financial and time savings from hosting virtual meetings, instead of travelling between offices certainly add up. 

3. Tech giants will lead the way

The tech industry was diversifying the world of work long before Covid-19 came along. From creating amazing campuses for employees, with rooftop gardens and bowling alleys, they’ve swiftly turned 360 to offer them new remote working patterns. Facebook and Google have offered to extend homeworking until the end of 2020. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey followed suit by pledging that his employees could work at home ‘forever’. It will be interesting to see how they will re-work their campuses and office spaces to adapt to the new changes in working life.   

But what of smaller companies? Well this is a great opportunity to review working practices and in theory, remote working could provide a huge number of benefits for many businesses – as long as they have the right technology. Investment in the best tools will be key for future proofing businesses and making sure they can stay competitive. It will be interesting to see if the government takes a leap of faith by endorsing certain work practices, as we have witnessed in New Zealand where Jacinda Ardern has been trialling a new four-day week.

4. Mutual trust will be key

So if we do start working from home more, how will this affect working culture and what will the new ‘working rules’ look like? How will staff be able to interact as easily as they would in an office, to enable them continue to deliver high-quality work, on time?

Mutual trust between employee and employer will be fundamental to the successful management of remote teams. Companies themselves will be responsible for setting up a new working culture, making sure that staff have the technology they need to be able to do their jobs properly, plus providing the best collaboration tools in order for them to keep engaged and motivated. 

As we move away from the standard working day, individuals will be responsible for managing their own time and keeping connected – so no turning off the Zoom camera!. As long as quality of work  stays consistent and deadlines are met, most employers will appreciate that staff will be working when they perform at their best, rather than 9-5.

5. A hybrid working model

Whether directed to by an employer or through a personal choice, the chances are that lots of us will be continuing to work at home for the foreseeable future.

It’s becoming clear that despite the government no doubt wanting people to get back to work when the time is right, many office workers will not be intending to go back to 9-5 office life for five days a week and will be keen to find a flexible working balance instead. Slack’s Future Forum research found that of those they surveyed, only 12% wanted to go back to full-time office work and 72% wished to find a hybrid remote-office model going forwards. 

So what would this hybrid model look like? We will, no doubt, still need face-to-face engagement. This is key to really strengthening working relationships. Indeed, some of the best work comes from informal discussions around the coffee machine, or at an impromptu meeting. So in-person gatherings, when they can, will no doubt take place. Once work spaces have been re-worked for safely hosting meetings, or more localised spaces have been created as meeting ‘hubs’ for team get-togethers, we will no doubt see a new working pattern emerge, mixing remote working with a return to a rather different sort of ‘office life’. 

Are you or your business adapting to new remote working practices? Why not get in touch to see how our call handling and virtual receptionist services can support your business in a flexible working environment.

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