By Scott Wilson
The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that for the last 18 months or so, workers across the UK and Europe who previously worked in offices were compelled to work from home instead.
This huge shift to remote working was unprecedented in its speed and scale. It was made possible by technology such as high-speed broadband at home: mobile phones: video conferencing: and online fax services, which together reproduced the capabilities of being in the office.
But the easing of public health restrictions means companies now face a choice. The processes they originally put in place in response to lockdown haven’t lost any of their effectiveness. They still enable employees to work remotely without having to come into the office.
Some organisations are comfortable for staff to continue working from home on an ongoing basis. Others, however, are adamant in wanting their employees to return to the workplace as soon as possible. It’s a choice that has divided the business community, in terms of the level of flexible working arrangements to offer employees:
- UK building society Nationwide is allowing 13,000 office staff to choose where they work under its new “work anywhere” flexibility scheme
- Supermarket group Asda has announced it will make hybrid working permanent at its head offices in Leeds and Leicester once Covid restrictions are lifted, allowing staff to choose where they work
- In June, the CEO of professional services provider Deloitte said the company’s employees are no longer required to be in the office for a set number of days or in specific locations
- However, rival firms KPMG, EY and PwC have all said employees must still go into the office at least two to three days each week
- Investment bank Goldman Sachs has said it wants all its staff to come back into the office full time once restrictions end
eFax conducted research asking UK IT leaders about the hybrid workforce model. The results found that more than three quarters (76%) of UK IT decision-makers say that their organisations could have made the transition to a hybrid workforce sooner – before the pandemic began – if they were aware of the pros and cons of moving to a hybrid working model before the pandemic began.
With many workers now accustomed to the flexibility of working remotely, and many employers now offering it on an ongoing basis, organisations that do not offer this flexibility risk becoming estranged from their existing staff and becoming less attractive to potential new employees.
eFax found that half of the IT decision-makers (51%) believe the inability to attract and retain talent and over a third (38%) believe being unable to accommodate family life, are big risks if business does not enable a hybrid working. A further third (34%) believe such a decision would cause employees to feel disengaged from their employer.
New technologies and hybrid working have enabled companies and their employees to weather the pandemic and emerge from the other side. The concepts of hybrid working and working from home are now familiar to many more workers than they were before the pandemic. Proponents of home working say that it improves their personal productivity and lets them enjoy a better work/life balance without the hassle of a time-consuming daily commute.
However, others complain that home working has meant the opposite, in that they now work longer hours than before lockdown. They want their working environment and home environment to stay separate. They also miss the ability to interact with colleagues in person, to discuss new ideas ad lib or ask for help or advice.
It’s for these reasons that many employees still want to return to the office. But the ability to work remotely is now an attractive option for those that wish to do so.
Hybrid working is here to stay, and forward-thinking companies with an interest in retaining employees and attracting new talent will adopt it as an integral part of their practices and processes.
About the Author
Scott Wilson is a Senior Director of Sales & Service at eFax.