The Covid-19 pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of our lives, but it has also accelerated societal changes which were already taking place. Remote and home working was already on the rise before the outbreak began, but when we were first put into lockdown in spring 2020 businesses of every size in every sector had to adapt. Staff had to be able to work effectively from home for businesses to have a chance of survival.
Remote working has benefits for businesses
Businesses leaders who already supported home working may have been aware of its benefits, but for those who previously required workers to be permanently based at the office, it was a time of learning and adaptation. Thankfully, there are some clear benefits for businesses with a remote workforce. A 2020 article by Forbes collated the findings of a range of research companies who looked at the subject and concluded that remote working had 5 clear benefits for businesses. They were:
- Productivity. Remote workers are on average 35-40% more productive than their office-based counterparts.
- Performance. The autonomy that remote working gives remote workers leads to an improvement in the quality of work they delivered.
- Engagement. That incredible combination of higher productivity and better-quality work means employees were far more engaged with their job, and absenteeism fell.
- Retention. Flexibility is a must have for many roles now, and businesses which offer home working are more likely to keep their staff.
- Profitability. Businesses with remote workers saved money and saw their profits rise.
The benefits of remote working for employees
There are several benefits for workers who are allowed to work from home. Not having to commute to and from work gives people more time to focus on work, their families and relaxing. The average UK commute in late 2019 was just shy of one hour a day, with the London average at an exhausting 81 minutes. Home workers also report that with fewer distractions they are able to focus on their work and achieve more in their day – that’s without homeschooling or childcare to contend with, of course.
There are benefits to employees and businesses from a hiring perspective too. Employees can live in cheaper, greener areas of the country rather than having to be near a city or business hub. Businesses can tap into a greater pool of talent if they can look at people who live beyond a reasonable daily commute.
Could home working become the norm?
It’s easy to see why some businesses have decided to make home working the norm, rather than the exception, going forward. They include the biggest of tech brands in the world, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as many thousands of SMEs. Of course, offices will still exist, and most are in agreement that some face-to-face time is needed for effective working and business, so it’s looking likely that there will be a blended model. People might spend 3 days working from home and two in the office. That will suit workers who have found the isolation of home working hard to bear, suffered from ‘Zoom fatigue’ or allowed the line between work and downtime to become blurred.
IT was the key to lockdown working
One thing that everyone can agree on is that the rapid pivot to enable home working during lockdown just wouldn’t have been possible without IT. One Microsoft executive even stated that they felt that the IT sector had undergone 2 years’ worth of digital transformation in just two months in early 2020. That certainly rings true for us here at Datalibrium – as the implications of the pandemic became clear and lockdown loomed, our IT services helped clients put remote working systems in place and enabled their businesses to continue to operate.
How to optimise remote working systems
So how can you make sure you deliver your staff and your business all the benefits that remote working can offer? To enable staff to work effectively from home you will need to address your organisational structure, your staff interactions and security. Here are some of the key areas we take a look at first:
As we mentioned before, people had to adapt quickly to remote working, and many used any available space and a work laptop. But as the year went by many found they needed to create a dedicated workspace at home. A proper desk, ergonomic chair and fast, reliable internet are the basics, closely followed by desktop screens, monitor stands and a proper keyboard and mouse. There was also a rise in the number of leaders looking to implement time tracking and task management software to help the delegate to and manage their teams remotely.
Collaboration and communication
When we’re not all sitting in the same office or having face-to-face meetings, IT needs to enable us to communicate and collaborate. That means emails, messaging software, telephony systems, video conferencing, and file sharing. There are now some amazing cloud-based software tools such as Office 365 which package this all up together and allow for real time updates, brainstorming and amazing collaboration. You can even buy software so that you can use Office 365 as a call centre too – it really does have so many fantastic tools.
Connecting laptops, phones, tablets and even smart speakers to a network can create a pathway for attacks on your business data. Endpoint security is the practice of securing those ‘endpoints’ – entry points of end-user devices such as laptops – from cyber threats to keep your business safe. It’s also worth asking staff to use a password manager, put a new password on their Wi-Fi and train them to be aware of the warning signs of a scam email, call or text.
If you’re interested in making the move to remote working permanent or your business is expanding and you need IR support, make sure you get in touch. We can install Office 365, cloud hosting, IT support, and telephony systems, as well as advising on any additional software and hardware you might need. Datalibrium offers a free eight-week transition package for businesses who want to implement remote working and can operate as an outsourced IT department. It’s worth investing now so that you can reap all those benefits of remote working in 2021 – just drop us a line.