Post-pandemic working: will WFH become the norm?

Posted on 22nd July 2020 by Lottie Buckley

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At Skout, we’ve always had a flexible working policy which has been instrumental in helping the team juggle various commitments and manage the work-life balance over the past ten years. However, with the UK lockdown making remote working a necessity for most businesses over the past five months, many have seen the benefits it can bring for their business and workforce.

As fed up as I am with the overused phrase ‘the new normal’ (ugh – it now falls into the same category as ‘unprecedented times’!) it’s quite fitting in this scenario as it seems that many businesses are looking to permanently change their working policies to enable their teams to work remotely more often moving forward. In fact, some large organisations, such as Twitter, Shopify and Facebook, have implemented a ‘work from home forever’ scheme, citing an increase in employee productivity, cost savings, and the reduction of carbon emissions as positives to come from the change.

You may have seen in our recent blog that we’ve partnered with Sapio Research to conduct several waves of the Covid-19 Business Barometer, aiming to find out how businesses are coping through the pandemic and to gain insight into their future outlook on a number of different areas. The findings from the latest wave gave us more useful insight into the opportunities and challenges that remote working presents to UK businesses, and how they’re looking to adapt moving forward.

Our research, which was conducted with a cross-industry sample of 500 businesses from SMEs to large enterprises, found:

·         Homeworking is opening up new opportunities for UK businesses, with 70% claiming it has potentially strengthened relationships with clients, supply chains, and competitors.

·         34% believe working from home is having a positive impact on workforce productivity, with reduced travel times and changing routines contributing the employee effectiveness.

·         One in six businesses reported that they are embracing ‘the new normal’ by downsizing their business operations and reducing expenditure in areas such as recruitment, training materials and premises.

·         However, enabling remote working does come at a cost, with 35% of businesses investing more into remote working technology, compared to pre-Covid-19 levels.

·         Companies are embracing change using online alternatives – 24% have made efforts to maintain their brand presence through activities such as virtual quizzes, 19% have delivered services through online training programmes, and 18% have participated in virtual networking events.

When compiling the research, we also spoke to several UK business owners to get a more in-depth picture of their outlook.

Adam Burtt-Jones, co-founder at workplace design consultancy, Burtt-Jones & Brewer, said, “At the moment, it’s too early to make decisions on what the future workplace will look like as many businesses are still adapting operations to changing government guidelines. What is evident, is that companies that never previously considered remote working have unintentionally had their minds changed and they can now see the benefits.

“Going forward, principles regarding the value of the office will change and home working will be now part of the experience. For example, some companies may just use the office as a figurative head to symbolise the heart of the business – somewhere to collaborate, socialise and meet with clients. However, working digitally cannot always replicate habits such as building and maintaining trusted relationships.”

Vincent Efferoth, managing director at alcoholic tea producer, NOVELTEA, commented, “Covid-19 has required the business and team to adapt to the new situation, which meant working remotely. This led to the decision to not invest in office space but to become a completely remote workforce. We are now rethinking our way of working and how we collaborate to become a more productive team.”

So, it seems that the UK lockdown hasn’t all been doom and gloom for UK businesses, as many have realised the benefits of home working, including increased productivity, reduced overheads, a smaller collective company carbon footprint, and better relationships. It can also be an incredibly attractive proposition for candidates when recruiting, as it can demonstrate that you trust your workforce implicitly and acknowledges the all-important work-life balance.

Further waves of the Covid-19 Business Barometer will be conducted and released throughout July and a full set of findings can be found here.

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