The coronavirus pandemic this year has forced businesses in many industries to adopt remote working and now there is a lot of debate in the business world about whether or not there will be a return to mandatory office-based working or if remote work will become the new norm.
Interestingly, many businesses have reported that productivity has actually increased with staff working remotely or stayed around the same which goes against what many people assume would be one of the drawbacks of remote work.
It is for this reason that many businesses plan to continue with remote working for the time being and may even continue for the foreseeable future once the threat of the virus has passed.
Benefits for Businesses & Staff
There are also lots of benefits to remote working from both a business and employee standpoint. From a business standpoint, the perks of remote working include:
Better productivity in some cases
Reduction in environmental impact
Ability to recruit talent regardless of location
For employees, the main benefits of remote working include:
Better work-life balance
More time at home
It is not all benefits though and there are challenges which means that some businesses will be keen to bring staff back into the office.
One of the biggest challenges is that communication can be an issue which is problematic both in terms of working and collaborating, but also the social aspect of working in an office (feelings of isolation are common with remote work). While this is a problem, there are tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom which can help businesses to stay connected.
Additionally, the coronavirus arrived so quickly that many businesses were not technologically prepared while many workers do not have suitable spaces for working from home (especially if they live with other people working remotely).
Not only this, but there are also economic concerns over a permanent switch to remote working with local economies relying on lunch trade, travel etc. - this is one of the main reasons that the government are eager to get people back into the office.
Another issue that has arisen from remote working is potential issues with client relationships both domestically and internationally.
While platforms like Zoom can work well for staff communication, it does not work quite so well when it comes to clients as this is all about relationship-building which is hard to do without face-to-face communication.
So, what factors will influence a business’s decisions when it comes to remote working vs returning to the office? It will depend on each company, but it is likely to come down to the financial implications, productivity levels and employees’ general thoughts.
It seems that many businesses are taking the decision to adopt a more flexible approach where people can continue working from home and come in one day a week or when required which could work well going forward.
Obviously, a coronavirus vaccine is also an important factor and when this is widely available businesses may start to encourage staff to come in.
It is interesting to see the debate that has risen from the forced experiment with remote working in 2020 and many believe that it is here to stay, even once the threat of the virus has passed as there are so many perks.