Ashmita Das, CEO of Kolabtree, shares her thoughts on the evolution of working from home and how the trend will build a more flexible future
According to Rightmove, searches for homes in small towns and villages have doubled as workers reconsider their priorities and leave cities in search of more space. For many businesses, the rise in home working also led to a rapid evolution of working practices.
Until 2020, working from home was considered a privilege enjoyed by a few. Flash forward a few months and home working is no longer a privilege, but a necessity. Due to the pandemic, business scrambled to establish the necessary IT infrastructure, processes and policies for their office-based teams to work safely from the comfort of their homes.
A lasting impact
It seems that this is no blip, the changes to working practices are here to stay. In fact, when the BBC surveyed 50 big employers, 24 firms said they had no plans for employees to return to the office. The COVID-19 pandemic has removed many natural barriers to remote working and, as floods of workers leave London, it seems the new way of working suits employees, as well as businesses.
Office culture and the idea that there is a need for staff to be physically present has been central to UK business culture. However, the pandemic has forced change in many purely office-based businesses and has therefore given them the opportunity to see how successful a remote team can be. As a result, the mindset is changing — businesses are more willing to experiment with new ways of managing their workforce.
Working remotely encourages independence, builds the problem-solving skills of your team and discourages micromanagement. When employees are empowered to take control of their own schedule, it can lead to improved productivity, better work-life balance and greater satisfaction. The benefits can extend beyond the existing team too, remote working means businesses are realising that they no longer need to recruit from within their city, or even their time zone.
In a remote team distributed across many time zones, there can be a certain cadence. There are times where one person is working, while another is asleep, so a natural rhythm can emerge. Unlike in an office, you cannot stroll over to someone’s desk for a chat, you are dependent on video calling and messaging technology to stay in touch. Working across different time zones creates certain periods of intense collaboration throughout the day, where the team are all in contact, as well as time where there is space to do individual work.
The future of flexibility
At a time when businesses are cash conscious and are looking for budget efficient ways to work, we could also see remote, gig economy knowledge work hitting the mainstream. The shift to remote working of full-time, in-house teams has also removed many of the natural barriers to hiring freelance remote consultants. Businesses will start to take advantage of bringing in knowledge professionals to bolster their teams as and when needed, to help drive their business forward, without committing to a full-time member of staff.
What is exciting is that the evidence suggests a flexible, remote style of working is perfectly suited to our next generation of employees. It definitely suits those moving out of our cities and into small towns and villages in search of more space.