Home working has traditionally been viewed as a perk; a privilege often exclusively given to managers. But will that change as a result of the pandemic? Will the twenties be remembered for a new sort of industrial revolution; the rise of remote working?
I’d like to think so, because remote working can unlock unique opportunities for the employee, the employer and for society as a whole.
For example, a TUC analysis in 2018 showed that the average UK employee spent 58 minutes commuting every day. That’s 260 hours or, assuming we spend 7 hours each night in bed, more than 15 days lost to commuting every single year by each of us. And, if you work in London or one of the other major conurbations, it’s likely to be a lot more than that.
What could you do with 15 extra days a year? Spend more quality time with loved ones? Take the time to eat more healthily? Learn a new skill? Take more exercise? It’s easy to see how these huge time savings could benefit the employee and, indirectly, by having more contented employees, employers too.
For most people, commuting is not a healthy activity. It’s been associated with increased risks of obesity, insomnia, stress, neck and shoulder pain and high blood pressure. So, reducing the commute could have broader health benefits for the employee, employer and society too.
Then there are the financial benefits. Employees save money by not having to commute. And encouraging remote working has the potential for employers to dramatically reduce demand for office space, which is often in premium locations.
A long-term change in the way we collectively work brings less obvious potential benefits too. For example, people will find themselves free to live where they want to live, rather than where they are obliged to. And because their job travels with them, employee retention can be improved too.
In the long-term, the freedom for people to live where they want could breathe new life into rural economies. And, of course, the freedom for employers to recruit the best talent, wherever it’s based, creates new opportunities for those in areas where there have traditionally been fewer of those.
And, perhaps most importantly of all, there are the potential benefits to the environment, with reduced noise pollution, reduced congestion and reductions in CO2 emissions.
With so many potential benefits, it’s not surprising that many organisations are now actively embracing home working. Twitter, for example, announced in May that all of its employees could work from home forever if they wish.
Others though are more hesitant. After all, allowing those who could work remotely to do so requires a major mindset change for many organisations. And, as with any change, the transition will involve overcoming challenges.
I’ve made the point throughout this blog that the benefits are potential benefits. They will only be realised if remote working is effective, and that will only be the case if organisations invest in developing the skills necessary to make it successful.
Managers will need to learn how to lead without micro-management. Employees will need to learn how to self-manage, work effectively from home and create a healthy gap between home and work. And teams will need to learn how to communicate and build successful relationships with people they don’t see every day.
At Glasstap, we have 55 years collective experience of working remotely and we’ve used that experience to create a whole range of skills-based training modules (all designed to be delivered remotely) that will help your teams evolve. If you'd like to know more, get in touch.
Moving towards having more remote workers is a journey, but one that has the potential for employees, employers and society to win.