So, it seems the worst of COVID is behind us… allegedly. And now we are finding more and more businesses are forcing their staff back into the office, despite them having proven they can do their jobs remotely and do them very well.
It’s almost as if companies are trying to recapture pre-pandemic habits for the sake of “feeling normal.” But this is dangerous. Because what is “normal” needs to evolve as society does. We cannot keep looking to the past to try and reclaim “normal.” We need to look at today. Now. And what works.
Do not be fooled by businesses that claim to embrace remote working. Most will say this, yet in reality they are most likely only willing, and begrudgingly so, to let staff work remotely one day per week. This is not embracing remote working. This is pretending to in order to secure staff.
Think about this. Think about the amount of jobs that can be done from home. Then consider the lessened burden on roads, public transport. Consider the environmental impacts of having less vehicles on the roads. Consider the time saved by those that cannot work from home, avoiding sitting in traffic with people who are only attending on-site because of arbitrary rules. Think of infrastructure. Think how small offices could be if most employees worked from home. The land that would be saved. The rent, utilities, insurance costs. The more people working from their own homes, the cheaper a business ultimately is to run.
Now, some people cannot work from home. Some jobs do not lend themselves to such an arrangement. Others may have unstable or unpleasant home lives where leaving to attend work is their only real escape. And some may be able to easily work from home but prefer working in an office. I say, let those who want to work in an office do so. Don’t even question it. If that is the person’s preference, then let them. But the same needs to be true for those wanting to work from home.
Businesses might be concerned about staff not working as hard from home. So set them targets. Make sure they remain accountable for their workload. And monitor their productivity. If there are issues, you simply manage these in exactly the same way you would a staff member who is lacking in productivity in the office. Identify the barriers and work with the person to navigate these.
Trust is a big one. But consider the above point. You will know if work is not being done. All businesses have some kind of measure of the output of their staff work. Targets, deadlines and quality assessments do not go away just because someone is working remotely. Stick to these and manage performance issues as you would any other way.
Loss of the social aspect of work is another concern. But consider this. How many people at work are you actually friends with? How many have ben to your home? How many can you honestly say you WANT to see every single day? Yeah, thought so. Socialisation should be with people whose company we enjoy or it defeats the purpose. And hearing the 20th story about Karen’s kids at AusKick is not going to improve your work performance or mood.
Businesses need to embrace remote working. And I mean REALLY embrace it. Make it the first preference for staff, but allow those that really want to be onsite to work from the office. Give staff what they want. Let them choose how is best for them to work. Happy and comfortable staff are productive staff. Give them true autonomy, and soon your business will reap the rewards.