By Jessica Heagren.
Working from home has become the norm for so many of us over the last 18 months that the thought of returning to the office feels us with dread. Traffic, standing for long train journeys, other peoples’ armpits on the tube….yuck. I’ll take my sunny kitchen table any day of the week thank you!
Except it’s not like that for everyone.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have a swanky home office shut away from our noisy families where we can hide away on video calls each day. But for those of us living in shared houses and trying to learn our trade, working remotely is not all it’s cracked up to be.
There is a natural economic, and often seniority, divide between those who benefit from remote working and those who find it less palatable. This has led to some grand sweeping statements around the need to get everyone back to the office.
But there is another way.
We all have different social needs. I’m happy to work at home five days a week, my business partner can’t bear it! But that doesn’t mean a no to remote working, it means being flexible! Finding models, working hours and locations that can work for everyone.
Many businesses are looking at local ‘hubs’. This means a shared workspace local to where somebody lives that they can go to for space, collaboration and interaction. It helps combat the loneliness issue and also means that people can meet colleagues, or even people in different companies, for a social fix.
Getting remote working right will result in higher productivity. This has been hotly debated recently but the one consensus almost everyone agrees on? That remote working did not make it fall off a cliff! Again, there were challenges – training, collaboration on projects, team interactions but we’ve had a long enough trial period to overcome most of these now.
In fact many companies found that instead of significantly dropping, productivity has improved. When people are given the freedom to choose their hours and take their dogs for a walk, drop their children off at school and exercise when they choose, they work when suits them. For how long have we been talking how people are all different? How their composition is different? How some people work at midnight and others like to work at 6am – early birds and night owls? Is it any wonder when people are left to their own devices that their productivity improves?
Not to mention their happiness. We know that when people feel they have a bit more control over their time they are that much happier. Determining what works for them, their families and their lives means they can construct a life that suits them.
The challenge of the old school elite around everyone being together and servicing customers is outdated and archaic. Of course thought should be given to this and plans to meet customer demands put in place but this can be far more of an organic process than many companies will trust in. Having looked at this in the past, the right balance of people and diversity levels that reflect a business’ customer base, companies find that their employee work patterns naturally follow their customer needs.
There will undoubtedly be a short term impact on the economy, particularly in city centres such as London. But again, this overcomes an issue we have long since been grappling with. Social and economic imbalance, the North South divide, overly expensive city centres and commuter belts. More people staying in suburbs and countrysides will allow for new businesses to build and pop up and wealth generation over a wider geographical spread.
This too lends itself to general wellbeing and improved stress levels. How many people dream of moving to Cornwall surfing every morning and then working later in the day? How many people would prefer to be surrounded by countryside to walk the dogs throughout the day? Travel, time pressure, traffic and large crowds cause cause people stress. This is an opportunity for people to live the life they choose whilst still using the skills they have spent years building up.
Remote working can and should be used to do what so many companies claim they are doing – prioritising mental and physical health of people over old notions of profit generation from the centre of London. Because frankly, that’s just not the case anymore.
We should be able to live where we want and how we want in order to contribute to our work in the greatest of our potential. Businesses will only benefit as a result.