Pete Braithwaite, COO at Kit Online, explains what we can expect for the future of remote working ahead of the 1st August when employers will legally be allowed to ask staff to come back into the office
From 1 August, employers can now legally ask employees to come back into the office. But it’s unlikely that the world will just ping back to full-time office-based work 24/7 post-pandemic. In fact, it’s looking increasingly as if many firms will never go back to how they once operated. So, what can we expect for the future of remote working?
1 – Companies won’t be able to retreat back to their pre-pandemic state
For the companies that have seen how working from home is proving successful, it’ll be hard to ignore the desires from staff for more flexibility in remote working and object to requests to do so. Cloud collaboration and productivity tools have proved that they are up to the job, and there has been a stark realisation that many roles are not location dependent. This may lead to more companies downsizing their office space in favour of allowing more staff to work from home or off-site.
With the right hardware, software and security/monitoring in place, we are witnessing a surge not just in remote working but in digital transformation. Although it has been somewhat forced upon many companies, the changes and progress made are here to stay. Those businesses who do not embrace it and try to retreat back to the bunkered pre-pandemic state are likely to compromise their agility and flexibility compared to those who have taken the leap.
The decision that employers make will also affect retention. Staff may be less willing to return to the drudgery of the daily commute. More firms will offer flexibility while those that don’t risk their staff easily going elsewhere.
2 – Mobile devices will be more accepted
Many manufacturers are now offering cross-over devices with the power of a laptop or workstation, but the size and portability of a tablet. Even Chromebook devices, which have surged in popularity due to their affordability, are increasingly providing apps which can be run on Android and iOS devices just as easily as they can on traditional computers.
When people tend to be away from their desk, a touch device that they can balance and operate with on one hand can be invaluable, especially for those with kids. And for those in creative services who can feel constrained when doing workshops and brainstorming, input devices such as active pens for devices have gained popularity.
Many applications work across the cloud now too, seamlessly allowing your employees to switch to different devices and continue to work on the same project, no matter if they’re at an appointment, in the office or on their commute.
3 – A shift away from desktop reliance
If this national working from home experiment has taught us one thing, it’s that the pure reliance on desktops for office staff will not be feasible in the future. People need mobility and, as mentioned above, the flexibility to be able to work wherever they are able. It’s not acceptable to rely on staff having their own equipment to work from in situations like this.
Devices which cater best to a multitude of purposes are 2-in-1 laptops. These can be used as traditional laptops with full keyboards, tablet devices, in presentation or tent mode, and often in studio mode. Many monitors now also feature USB hubs so you can plug in various peripherals and devices conveniently rather than having to reattach everything to your laptop. Some examples of these laptops include the Microsoft Surface devices, including the Surface Pro 7 and the Surface Book 2.
You could also consider purchasing tiny form-factor PCs, which deliver the same performance as a regular desktop but are smaller than even an old VHS cassette. And if you miss the feeling of a desktop, a docking station with extra monitors can also be timesaving and allow the full range of peripherals and chargers to be connected with one simple cable to your laptop which on their own often have limited connectivity options.
For those that have a ready-to-go suite of tools for remote workers, it’ll help to make sure those critical communications are seamless.
4 – IT will need careful investment
There’s no smoke without fire, and there’s no working from home without extra investment into IT infrastructure and support. There are also more likely to be issues getting help with IT problems when people are working from home. If you’re in the office you can just go downstairs to the IT team, but this can’t be done remotely.
There will need to be many IT considerations to ensure there’s a quality of service which is external to your core IT network. Perhaps you can consider a policy whereby home-workers must subscribe to a broadband service with a certain minimum speed to be able to work for home. However, you may have to subsidise this. Make sure you deliver company-wide technical training to boost the company culture and ensure employees are satisfied with the way that they need to use the software.
5 – Human interaction will still be king
While telecommuting is more affordable and there are many benefits to working from home, it’s still got its challenges. Video conferencing and web-based collaboration tools can help with communication, but people still miss the camaraderie – especially if you live on your own. You get used to the small talk and the incessant phone ringing, fridge chats and coffee conversations – not just relying on a 2-metre distanced chat with your postman. Even introverts want to see other humans from time to time.
People will want the option to work from home more, but many will still choose to work in the office most of the time. It’s more about having the option and the freedom to be able to work how they like when they’re able.
Top tips for working from home and staying productive
- Keep a routine for yourself
- Set a defined area which contains your work-related devices and documents where possible, which you can leave at the end of the workday
- Use headphones if you’re working around a partner to minimise distractions
- Try to take lunch and regular breaks
- Stay hydrated
- Keep your colleagues up to date – collaboration improves productivity
- Use video call instead of audio-only when contacting both customers and colleagues – and try and make an effort to have a few minutes of conversation about non-work related topics to make it feel more relaxed and more human.