Reflections on our new way of working

As we approach a year since the UK lockdown began, we wanted to reflect on and assess our new ways of working. In October 2020, Microsoft held a Future of Work keynote in which they shared their third party and internal research. Microsoft found that leaders had gone from wondering if employees were being productive when working from home to wondering whether they were working in a sustainable way as people are at the heart of their company.

Similarly in 2020 Leesman conducted a survey of 125,000 people from 870 companies across 83 companies on remote working. They found that around three quarters of people (74.2%) had a positive experience working from home, while 82.2% stated home working had improved their productivity.

Additionally, there was no differentiation by ages: all employees were happier carrying out their work at home. The findings also outlined that the boundaries between work and home life were often blurred, impacting mental health and that not everyone had a set-up conducive to work from their home.

Travel & The Environment

One of the main benefits of working from home is that there is no commute. The average daily commute before the pandemic was almost an hour (59 minutes), according to research conducted by the TUC in 2019. This is the equivalent of 221 hours a year.

In our own team, some of our consultants have reported that they’ve been able to find a better work life balance, and find new stimulus’ around the house to help them think creatively about their assignments when they aren’t at their desk. We’ve found that virtual working has given more time to spend with family or on personal fitness. International and regional travel has also been cut out throughout the pandemic, which led to companies saving money and resources and reducing the impact on the environment.

Balancing Work and The Home Environment

Another benefit of home working has been the freedom and flexibility to adapt work around home life, which in some cases has benefitted mental health. However, home working hasn’t come without it’s challenges. Microsoft in third party and internal research found that 33% of remote workers said that the lack of separation between work and home life had negatively impacted their mental health. This lack of boundaries had led to working longer hours and feeling burnout. Equally, the disparity in equipment at home has made it difficult for employees to present themselves well virtually, as well as finding the space and quiet to work in a busy household.

Strengthening Relationships Virtually 

The psychological impact of being indoors and disconnected physically from a team, support network or clients has taken it’s toll on employees, especially roles that revolved around generating personable client interactions. Moreover, separation from colleagues when working from home has meant a loss of connection and a rise in feelings of isolation. As a team at Positive Dynamics, we’ve found it harder to read each other/clients to offer support as a lot of face-to-face interaction has been replaced with emails.

Microsoft found in their internal and third-party research that home working had some benefits including flexibility around family life and a new found empathy for others. You can read more of our predictions on flexible working in the future here. In fact, 62% of people said they felt more empathetic towards colleagues as they can now see into each other’s lives.

Technology & Data Protection

Technology has been essential for home working as well as home schooling and personal connection and entertainment. Yet, the pandemic has highlighted a digital divide (especially in the UK) for regions with accessible high-speed broadband and those without. It’s made it difficult for colleagues to interact as technology has let them down during presentations or meetings, leading individuals to miss out on vital virtual connections. Equally, home working has led to an increase in bills, which is an additional strain for families.

A major challenge has been ensuring that data is protected and software at home is GDPR compliment for sensitive data to be accessed securely and remotely.

What’s next? Is this the future way of working?

Moving forward employees and organisations will have to find a way to balance these new found benefits (flexible working, empathy, less impact on the environment and time away from family) of home working with time in the office. To ensure that everyone feels supported, connected and prioritises their individual wellbeing whilst delivering the organisational requirements in output.

We’d love to hear your experiences and hear what you’re thinking about working moving forwards. Positive Dynamics has supported organisations over the past thirty years to evolve their ways of working and implement culture change.