Our perspectives on remote working have changed dramatically over the course of the pandemic.
No doubt many employers in 2019 would have assumed that workers operating from the comfort of their homes leads to a negative effect on output.
Olivier Djololian, Head of Workplace Practice at CloudStratex explains that after a year and a half of pandemic working, however, we now have a deeper understanding of what remote work entails.
A recent study produced by Stanford University found that, far from lowering productivity, those working from home have seen performance increases of around 13 per cent.
The same study also found a variety of fringe benefits for both employers and workers, with reported increases in work satisfaction and halved attrition rates, while the quieter and more convenient working environment faced by employees led to 4 per cent more calls made per minute.
These figures don’t just tell us that working from home has a number of benefits. They also suggest that we need to start revisiting the assumptions that many organisations are built on, asking ourselves if fresh avenues towards productivity, new ways of managing people, and advances in technology are necessary in a new working climate.
Answering these questions is especially urgent given that remote and hybrid working is likely to remain in place for a huge number of businesses, with research from Microsoft reporting that “the majority of leaders see flexible working as a powerful way to retain top talent while, at the same time, achieving greater efficiencies.”
Revisiting old assumptions
Some commentators have gone to extremes to suggest new – and potentially counter-intuitive – ways of challenging our assumptions of what productive working looks like.
To some, for example, reducing the standard working week from five days to four may have surprisingly positive effects in terms of efficiency.
One Icelandic study found that reducing 40-hour work weeks down to 35 resulted in either the same or better levels of productivity: with time being more valuable, and with the promise of a reward in the form of more free time, workers were found to operate well on a streamlined schedule – and they were also noticeably happier.
On the subject of happiness: the advent of remote and hybrid working may also lead us to reassess the skills we look for in business leaders when it comes to keeping workers happy and productive.
Working from home, even for part of the week under a hybrid system, can have an isolating effect – and the pandemic itself is far from over, alongside all the worries or concerns that come with it.
As such, companies may need to invest in training for leaders which places a far greater emphasis on emotionally intelligent leadership. Now, more than ever, leaders must work to help people facing all the challenges of the current era – whether obvious or invisible.
Leaders of hybrid workers won’t just require emotional intelligence, but a better understanding of technology. With so much work shifting to a digital space, especially in long-term hybrid working models, we now need to reassess the baseline of tech competence in workers all the way up the hierarchy.
Not only do leaders need to understand technology, but workplaces need to re-evaluate the technology they currently rely on. If hybrid working is here to stay, then businesses which may have ignored digital transformation pre-COVID now need to look with fresh eyes on how tech can maintain productivity when employees divide their time between home and office.
Cloud services, for example, will take on new significance for companies whose workers need access to shared files and information wherever they are – not to mention the ability to collaborate on those files at the same time with colleagues in different locations.
Similarly, workers will need to be able to work seamlessly on their projects from one day to the next – even if their location and their devices change in the process.
Systems like virtual desktops are well-suited to this task, providing workers with the same desktop regardless of their device and circumstances. Using cloud-based services like Office 365, workers can maintain their productivity and step into work-related situations without missing a beat.
By changing our perspectives on what the post-pandemic workplace requires – in terms of location, people management, and technology – we can capitalise on the surprising new source of productivity that remote working represents.
And with cloud services, as with remote working, employers are on the cusp of discovering that changes they make for pandemic-related reasons may have huge potential for increased efficiency as we step into an exciting new future of work.