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Working from home: the new norm?

Working from home

By Graeme Gordon, Praxity Executive Director

Millions of people have been forced to set up temporary work stations at home. What does it mean for the future of work?

Working from home has become a necessity for many people in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.  What was, until a few weeks ago, the realm of freelancers and employees of agile, forward-thinking companies, is now the norm for the foreseeable future for the majority of white-collar employees.

This dramatic, imposed shift to home working has far-reaching consequences for the way we collaborate, live and interact in the months and years ahead.

Here at Praxity’s UK hub, as my team enters its third week of working from home, how is it fairing?

Better performance

Everyone still seems highly motivated. True, I cannot see exactly what they are doing but I am not the type to be looking over their shoulders when in the office. Certainly, the end results or key milestones of all our projects are being achieved as expected. In some cases, even ahead of expectations, thanks to the use of advanced technologies.

We maintain good team spirit by holding half-hour joint lunch breaks via a video conferencing link on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A little gesture but it is proving to be very effective in lifting everyone’s mood and strengthening the team bond. None of us are used to being quite so solitary when working, so seeing friendly faces in the same situation is great.

Equally, if we have work-related questions or things to discuss in more detail, we use a simple, free video conferencing system. Being able to see each other makes us feel much better connected.

More time

Our working day has changed too. I much prefer my 90-second commute to my desk at home compared to my 90-minute commute to my desk at the office but I have noticed actual working hours have slightly expanded for both myself and my team.

Like most of my team, I now start work by 8am, and don’t finish until well after 5pm. In fact, on Friday part of the team worked well into the evening to ensure we had something ready for Monday morning. I’m not saying we would not have done this if in the “real” office, but it was much less of a hassle to do it whilst at home, with no commute to face at the end of the day.

So far so good in terms of the way we work. But I am aware that with less than a month under our belts, there may well be other challenges to overcome.

Will we become ‘stir crazy’? I’m not sure we will. I fully expect there to be a great sigh of relief when we are released from our temporary lockdown and are able to revert to what was ‘normal-life’ pre-Covid-19. However, the same will not be true for everyone.

Change for good

I suspect there will be a desire by many to maintain some form of flexible or remote working once the pandemic has passed.

Additionally, those of us responsible for operational costs are about to become aware of the potential savings remote working can produce. The simplest of which is a reduction in the need for office space. Prior to Covid-19, a lot of companies were adopting hot desk or hotel desk systems to facilitate or encourage more agile ways of working. I suspect the trend towards more flexible and remote ways of working to increase on the back of evidence that it results in little or no loss in productivity.

I believe working from home will become the new norm post Covid-19. It can be an economic benefit for both employers and employees, and it has the potential to improve wellbeing. Don’t get me wrong, I do not foresee the demise of central offices or hubs for staff to collaborate, but I do think that once we are all through this pandemic, our work and indeed our lives will be changed for good, and hopefully for the better.

Praying you all, your families and colleagues all stay well, and we come out of this situation fit, healthy and happy.