COVID-19 has changed the workplace as we once knew it. Bustling offices have been reduced to rows of empty desks and workers have been forced to convert their spare rooms, garages, or the sofa into home offices. Now that the initial shock of working remotely has worn off, many people have come to realise that the typical 9 to 5 no longer serves its purpose. People worldwide want more flexibility and COVID-19 has handed this to them on a plate.
By April 2020, 43.1% of people in the UK were working from home, but once the pandemic ends, what will the future of the workplace look like? Let’s take a closer look.
The hybrid model
One of the key takeaways from the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace is that people want more choice. While working from home isn’t for everyone, the perks are hard to deny, which is why a hybrid approach could take centre stage. Offering a combination of both remote and office work means employees still get the face to face contact they miss, and the better work-life balance they’ve come to enjoy.
The challenges of a hybrid workplace
However, to achieve a hybrid workplace, challenges surrounding remote working still need to be overcome. Some of the top concerns employees have with remote working include:
• Maintaining relationships with their colleagues
• Avoiding distractions
• Staying focused
• Combatting feelings of loneliness and isolation
• Dealing with unstable Wi-Fi and internet access
• Knowing what other people are working on
How to help your employees overcome these obstacles
Check-in with them more regularly
Getting the balance right will be essential here. While some employees will like frequent check-ins, others could find too many meetings distracting. To ensure you’re being sensitive to their needs, don’t hesitate to ask your employees what works best for them. Frequent communication has been shown to boost productivity, so a mix of one-to-one and group video conferences could be the best solution for everyone.
Mix up your communication methods to suit different teams
While remote working offers a number of benefits – no commuting, a better work-life balance, a less stressful working environment – it will require you to be more flexible with your employees. One of the biggest advantages of remote working is that you don’t have to stick to the 9-5, so if your employees need to start late one day and finish early the next, let them. However, it’s still important to set boundaries, so make sure they know what you expect them to complete and ask that they let you know if their hours will vary widely.
Encourage routine and boundary setting
While you want your employees to enjoy the flexibility offered by remote working, encouraging them to set routines and boundaries will help to increase their productivity and reduce burnout. For example, let them know they can step away from their desks at the end of each day guilt-free rather than feeling like they have to be constantly checking their emails.
If some of your employees have children, they may prefer to do so many hours in the morning, have a long break during the day and then return to working in the evening. If this is the case, ask your employees to set these expectations early on so everyone can adapt their own schedules accordingly.
Ensure they have all the equipment they need
When it comes to working from home, making sure your employees have a decent set up will be essential for their health and wellness. However, they don’t just need ergonomic desks and chairs; you need to ensure they have access to good collaboration software, document management programs, and a corporate social network.
Digital workplace software gives your teams the tools they need to work from home
This is where the digital workplace comes in. A digital workplace gives your employees access to everything they need from one central hub, including apps, documents, and communication tools. Messaging apps like Slack, document management systems such as Google Drive, and business productivity tools like Trello can all be incorporated to ensure your business stays on track.
Ultimately, while it may not be possible to predict what the future of the workplace will look like in its entirety, Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield described it perfectly when he said: “We all know that work will never be the same, even if we don’t yet know all the ways in which it will be different.” In the meantime, make sure you’re fully prepared for a greater shift to remote working in the years to come.