Andrea Gray – Managing Director of music licensing company PPL PRS
A recent global study revealed that over 97% of workers wish to work remotely for the rest of their career, even if only some of the time. While necessitated for many by Covid-19, remote working is evidently effective. While the global business landscape continues along the road to recovery, employers are weighing up employee performance and preference pre- versus post-pandemic to find the optimal way of working.
Here is a consolidated guide of advantages and disadvantages relating to home working, office-based shifts and – as a combination of both – ‘hybrid working’ by Andrea Gray, Managing Director of PPL PRS.
In the office
Video sharing platforms have enabled creative sessions to continue at a distance. That said, a buzzing office environment of employees with different passions, experiences and cultural references can be a melting pot for strong ideas. Some employees may feel that sitting together in a room with post-it notes is a formula for success. This, in turn, can aid team-building and problem-solving. Moreover, managers can equip their employees with techniques and tools to empower their creative vision.
An employee who feels mentally stimulated and sees their seed of an idea come to life may stay motivated, boosting retention rates.
From meetings to leisurely lunch breaks and general watercooler chat, facetime with colleagues can help to build an employee’s interpersonal relations. This is logistically easier in an office environment. As connections develop, teams are more likely to work cohesively together, improving productivity in the long run. In turn, confidence grows which is important for new starters who may feel nervous but more inclined to ask for help, raise issues or share ideas.
For many workers, commuting – whether by bus, train or car – is required due to the locations of offices predominantly residing in built-up areas. In 2019, a survey revealed that the average full-time British worker spends around 164 hours a year commuting to and from work! These employees supposedly pay almost £1,750 a year for their travel. Moreover, OddsMonkey also found that a third of Brits find their daily commute a stressful experience. So, not only can travel strain finances, but also compromise mental wellbeing.
The working rhythm can be interrupted in an office, with a study from CareerBuilder revealing 39% of workers feel employee chatter is a main distraction alongside smoke or snack breaks (29%) and meetings (24%).
Working from home (WFH)
A recent global study from the Limeade Institute found that 100% of the 4,553 workers surveyed were anxious about returning to their offices. Moreover, Buffer found that 98% of people would choose to work remotely (at least part-time) for the rest of their careers if they could. Working from home offers employee flexibility and can either build or disrupt trust.
1) Inclusivity and diversity
Working from home allows employers to create a more inclusive team as location barriers are resolved through remote working. Hiring employees from various socioeconomic, geographic, and cultural backgrounds can bring varied perspectives and ideas to a workforce.
2) ‘Head-down’ productivity
Indeed found that over half of US remote workers believe they are more productive when they work from home. The lack of office distractions may suit employees, as they can solely focus on the task at hand without interruptions. However, the home can also bring challenges (especially for anyone balancing other priorities like parenthood) so it’s down to the individual to identify where they work best. A level of background sound may be welcomed by some, like ambient noise or soothing music, to boost productivity.
Buffer’s recent study highlighted that 20% of the global workforce find loneliness is their biggest struggle when working remotely. This is a key consideration for any businesses looking to introduce working from home longer-term, so ought to be counteracted with social team events, consistent communication between colleagues and employee benefits.
2) Work / life balance
When a room in your house becomes your office, the boundaries blur and it can prove difficult to mentally clock off. Indeed, Buffer further discovered that almost one in five people find it difficult to unplug from their work when at home.
If unaddressed, mood and sleep can be compromised, leading to a greater chance of burnout. Employers may wish to consider employee wellbeing training to ensure staff feel supported.
‘Hybrid working’ is the flexible working model which allows employees to do both home and office-based shifts within their weekly work schedule. Stuart Duff, Partner & Head of Development at business psychology firm Pearn Kandola ascertains that “we no longer see work life and home life as two entirely separate entities; rather, both can coexist in individual blends that maximise productivity and promote positive relationships between employers and employee”.
1) Sustainable work / life balance
For employees who struggle to compartmentalise work, returning to the office – then unwinding on the commute – gives them the physical distance needed to mentally log off. The professional and personal boundary is re-established. But for moments when home is more convenient, due to childcare or life admin needs – the option to work remotely can be reassuring. The flexibility to move between workspaces offers convenience and variety, while nurturing creativity. In turn, employees can diarise their tasks depending on their location – for example; meetings in the office then longer, focussed tasks (like writing) at home – to maximise productivity.
Employers can aid this adjustment by reassuring their team that they should be work their allocated hours and / or offering wellbeing sessions on finding balance.
Such actions can help to overcome stress and loneliness from over-working.
2) Health precautions
The gravity of Covid-19 may have encouraged employers to investigate ways to counteract the negative impact of potential future lockdowns. Hybrid working is a wise solution to prepare employees should essential remote working occur again, while future-proofing the corporate strategy in the event of similar crises.
Having fewer people in the office at a given time will also reduce the risk of illness spreading – be it Covid-19 or the common cold, particularly over winter.
The transition to hybrid working may incur increased short-term costs for employers if the team requires certain technology or tools to tackle their to-do list remotely. That said, FreeOfficeFinder reported that 85% of their enquiries across 60 days were from businesses looking to move to the hybrid-working model, up from 0% 24 months before. It’s worth employers evaluating their office space and weighing the expense per day to accommodate a smaller team.
2) Scheduling conflicts
Hybrid working runs the risk of conflicting calendars as team members attend the office on different days. This can also bleed into external client calls and meetings as well if they too are adopting the hybrid-working approach too within their business. However, managers can employ organisational techniques like allocating ‘team days’ and supporting on time management to overcome this issue.
Ultimately, employers should consider which style of working suits their business and people. Arguably there is no ‘one size fits all’ anymore. The beauty of a ‘hybrid’ model is that blends the benefits of both home and office-based work. In turn, it creates a flexible and trusting environment for employees which may drive better job retention and team loyalty.