The pandemic has brought in new working dynamics, forcing a global reconsideration of what it means to work, as well as when, and where, we do that work.
This is also in the context of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) publishing their CIPD Working Lives NI Report last week, for the first time covering Northern Ireland. I will pick up on that report in another article later, but it was interesting to note that employee preferences point to a hybrid future for those who can work from home, with homeworking some of the time the most popular option, however, almost a third (32%) of all employees work in jobs that can’t be done from home.
Utilising the hybrid model is no longer a choice, rather, a business necessity. The hybrid model is slowly but surely becoming the new normal. Changes in the workplace will be more permanent, therefore, it is vital that we consider both the benefits and downfalls emanating from the work from home revolution.
There are certainly both winners and losers in this revolution. Employees’ experiences undoubtedly vary by circumstances. According to recent research out of the US, higher paid employees win, while the lower paid employees lose.
There is no doubt that there are numerous tangible benefits that working remotely has brought to the table. Established employees, parents, caregivers and introverts in particular reap the benefits. The most evident being enhanced work-life balance, while avoiding long commutes.
Employees have been given the opportunity to structure their day as they see fit, enhancing the flexibility of their working day. In response, employers have become more understanding about household and childcare responsibilities while working from home.
There are also many cost saving benefits for organisations, including lower overhead and higher productivity. Enforcing the work from home revolution as a permanent solution allows for more social mobility, enabling organisations to amplify their competitive advantage by attracting talent from further regions, that would not have been considered before the pandemic.
Although the benefits resulting from the work from home revolution are stark, we also need to reflect on the downfalls. Organisations need to consider methods and practices that can be put into place to outweigh these disadvantages. In particular, organisations need to consider the processes and on-boarding of new employees.
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Additional missed opportunities for new employees include the loss of informal learning opportunities from being surrounded by their colleagues. This has had a tremendous effect on corporate culture, which is one of the more prevalent organisational changes that have resulted from the work from home revolution.
It is evident that despite the COVID-19 imposed working from home adjustment, employees have remained productive. However, remote working will not suit everyone. Organisations need to accept that the work from home revolution has offered mixed blessings. Therefore, a hybrid model is likely the best solution. This will accommodate all employees, regardless if they are the winners or the losers of the work from home revolution.
It is essential for leaders to recognise and acknowledge that the old, rigid, office-centric enforcement will not work going forward. By embracing change, technological advancements, and the demands of the post-COVID workforce, organisations will excel and reap the benefits that have been created from this new era of work.