From early 2020 then pandemic radically changed many things, but a major disruption was to our working lives. We were ‘forced’ out of our workplaces, to work remotely, so onto our kitchen tables, in our spare bedrooms, and dining rooms (if you were lucky). For many, it was a case of multi-tasking, so managing a job-role, childcare, home-schooling, maybe caring for elderly relatives in the middle of a global pandemic. What impact has this had on workplace balance?
Can you remember the pre-pandemic workplace?
Before the pandemic outbreak, many large corporate companies restricted their workers from working from home. It wasn’t just the private sector; some governmental agencies were also reducing work-from-home benefits. Flexitime, (viewed enviously by some) was positioned as a benefit for workers to start or leave work early to factor in life. Overall, workers worked in their office, arrived at a similar time, and left at a similar time. The technologies are the same but there was no urgency to use video conferencing or the shared online platforms.
Post-pandemic workplace (almost)
New terminology has emerged, 'you’re on mute' – turn on your microphone, 'Teams me' – send an instant message, and hybrid working – a combination of ‘Work from Home’ and ‘Work in Office’. Interestingly, what has emerged in a post lockdown workplace is that many like (love) working from home. They have enjoyed the flexibility, reduced travel and associated savings of time, stress and costs, but others have faced challenges the of shared living and working spaces, and found that the saved travel time became extra working time.
Many business owners are now seeing the benefits of having a remote workforce. Trust has replaced some fears that the ‘job wouldn’t get done’ if not conducted within the confines of the workplace, there are of course financial incentives of reduced office and workspaces.
Technology has improved to the point where it has influenced the workplace by introducing new methods of connecting, working, and learning. Messenger claimed in 2017 that businesses are not now restricted by a fixed plan or geographical location so that employees can work anytime, anywhere. As a result, organisations have to make sure they created a safe and secure online working environment for employees, to make sure that client data and organization data are safe and well secured from online hackers and system viruses. More tips on cyber security can be found on blog ‘Cybersecurity and remote working’.
What is Hybrid Working?
Hybrid working, a combination of ‘Work from Home’ and ‘Work in Office’ is not a new phenomenon but has become the de-facto mode of the workplace. COVID-19 triggered many workers and organisations to switch to remote and homeworking for the first time, with little or no readiness. The unexpected change in working had an immediate impact for many people’s work-life balance and well-being, as the boundaries of work and home blurred.
Remote working or homeworking, a recent norm of operating work from several places (office, home, or comfortable environment) with the use of technology, was initially advocated in the 1970s (van Meel, 2011). According to the Office of National Statistics, during the first Coronavirus lockdown, 60% of the mature population in the UK worked from home, and after the shutdown, 26% of Britons want to remain working from home either permanently or occasionally. As a result, there is an ongoing onus on employers to monitor their workers for good or for bad, with this being an important motivation for the existence of organisations.
The Business School have summarised the workplace transformation insights from conversations with SMEs and big international companies, in the SWOT below:
From all the fireside chats, they have all started working remotely and have the option to stay at home or come in to the office. More of an agile approach to work.
One interviewee states his company “increased their budget for technology infrastructure by 60%”. They also “paid for new laptops for the workers to use at home”, which is good for the circular economy. This also makes the transition smoother as they have the right technology in place to continue working from home.
Upgrade desk tops to mobile devices and more use of cloud storage, improving the businesses circular economy and increasing collaboration and team work between workers.
SME`s “across the North West and Midlands now have access to £8 million in government funding to enable digital transformations” (Hellard, 2021). This funding will accelerate the transformation process as this funding will be brought in and help with the costs of new technology.
One interviewee stated that there is an opportunity gained from “working from home”, as there is more freedom and empowerment for workers to get their work done, allowing creativity to thrive in their working environment.
New emerging technologies such as RPA can be implemented during the transformation of the workplace, improving the businesses backend operations.
One interviewee said they had to “invest a lot of money in employees because they had a lack of BYOD”. This would delay and hinder the transformation and we need to make sure workers have the right technology to make sure we can have a smooth transition.
All interviewees expressed worries that a lot of “new staff were struggling to get parts of their work done and had to wait longer to get help, compared to being in the office where they can ask someone across the desk”.
One interviewee stated that the “online registration system can crash due to the peak of users at certain times”, overloading the system.
Internet connection for workers at home could affect their work time and the amount of work they do.
Another risk is cybersecurity and not protecting your systems.
Due to COVID one interviewee said “all sites were shut”, so if there is no online system in place which allows them to work effectively from home then they have failed to transform their workplace.
Due to the pandemic some may not be prepared and have not got BYOD/BYOA . One interviewee stated, “1,000 employees out of 4,500 don’t have the right technology at home”.
If you are interested in the workplace transformation and would like to explore how we can help you, please contact us on: Marie Griffiths (firstname.lastname@example.org) / Yun Chen (email@example.com). The workplace is changing, and the speed of this change is accelerated by pandemic. We have another blog – ‘Top Tips on Workplace Transformation for SMEs’ to discuss tips for organisations on how to manage this change.