Remote Working

6 things 2020 taught us about remote working

Lydia Watson

It’s early January, 2020. You’ve just spent 40 minutes pressed cheek-to-cheek with a handful of strangers, all slightly sweating in your winter coats (which are still a necessity for the walking portion of your commute, but less so in tropical tube conditions). It’s still dark when you get into the office, and it’s darker still when you leave.

That all seems so far away now. For most of us that can work from a laptop, we’ve spent the majority of last year learning how to work remotely – from the practicalities of working from a kitchen table, to finding ways to stay connected. So what have we learned?

1. The scope of practical & procedural adjustments

Some of the practical adjustments we all had to make weren’t surprising. Arranging deliveries of laptops was an obvious first step, but what about the things that didn’t immediately come to mind? We learned the importance of finding ways to do things like onboarding new starters, and making up for the lost benefits of office parties and commuting.

2. It uncovered new strengths & weaknesses

Even if just out of sheer necessity, organisations adapted quickly when it came to the practicalities. 97% of organisations were quick to put procedures in place, and 94% took practical steps immediately – but our research also showed a lack of care and empathy from organisations, something which desperately needs to be taken into account.

3. Wellbeing became a real priority

The perfect storm of health concerns, the isolation of lockdown, and organisations struggling to show care and empathy meant employee wellbeing became a clear priority. We saw a risk of burnout, partly due to the pressures of a struggling economy, and the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance when working from home.

4. On average, people prefer remote working

These wellbeing issues aren’t because of remote working though. Significant research has been done on how people feel about the workplace, and most identify a desire to continue working remotely. One study saw 91% of respondents wanting to work remotely at least some of the time, and our research with the Diversity Project supports that too – with 78% saying they’re more productive working at home.

5. It was harder for some more than others

Different people faced different challenges. From flat-sharers dealing with limited space and privacy, to parents struggling to juggle childcare and Zoom calls, we saw the importance of considering how it can be harder for some. The impact on working women caused considerable concern, highlighting the need for organisations to listen.

6. It’s changed the future of work forever

You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. We’ll always have had this extended period of remote working, so it’s worth accepting it’s going to be at least a part of professional life forever. Maybe that means actively deciding to go remote-first, or considering even more flexibility – but either way, make sure you’re led by your people’s needs.

It’s time to start the conversation

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