Remote working had been increasing in popularity prior to the 2020 international health crisis, coinciding with improved technology and the celebration of tactile, forward-thinking work environments. Despite this growing popularity, however, it still remained a novel concept, with many leaders refusing to change a system that already worked so well. Then, following the COVID outbreak, a significant number of businesses were forced into teleworking situations, allowing their staff to work from home.
During this period, great scrutiny has been placed upon the advantages and disadvantages of working from home, with a particular focus on productivity and mental health. Studies are showing that there is a substantial preference for distance working, especially from employees, with three quarters claiming they are more productive working at home with fewer distractions. This positivity, however, coincides with a similar number of employees finding themselves feeling less connected to their coworkers, with others claiming it negatively affects their mental health.
As we begin to reopen businesses, leaders are being faced with the decision of whether or not to recall their teams back into a shared workplace, bringing the benefits and costs of remote working into question.
Long Term Vs Short Term
While some well-known business leaders, such as Sir Alan Sugar, remain swiftly and staunchly against remote working, others are more willing to discuss the finer points of their positions and experiences. A great source for such a discussion is the Leader From Leaders series, hosted by People Group Services, which spent significant time during the COVID outbreak talking to business leaders about the topic.
Recently, Mike Barnard, CEO of Acacium Group, described his own resistance to continuing a remote working environment long term, stating that, while maintaining a slightly hybrid workforce, he considers himself “a bit of a Victorian” due to his belief that “proximity is important”. His concern grows from the fact that distance working dilutes workplace culture, an important quality of successful businesses, ensuring that teams are able to connect with each other beyond the task at hand.
This insight is valuable because, while many employees might enjoy the novelty of working without the need for commuting, often within their own schedule, few are simultaneously claiming that it has improved their connection with their team and many stating it has adversely affected such a bond. So, while Barnard acknowledges that there is a real benefit to the flexibility that comes from enabling work to be performed without a central location, to do so long term will likely have detrimental effects upon the business as a whole.
The Art of Predictions
Such a cautious prediction, one that settles on a blending of both on-site and home working practices, seems sensical because the data regarding long term remote working effects is yet to be conclusive. While continuing to trust their own instincts, and the years of evidence that centralised shared working spaces can be effectively managed, leaders are watching closely to see if remote working hold up beyond its temporary necessity.
What has been demonstrated, however, is that should a situation require, employees can easily work from home, enabling businesses the benefit of choice within their teams. So, while predictions remain unfavourable toward permanent remote working, the ready availability of it may strengthen departments
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