As many companies were forced to furlough employees or ask their employees to work from home where possible, we found ourselves in unsettling times.
However, one industry that has been business as usual, and in some cases thrived, is the tech industry. Vodafone stated that they saw a 50% increase in internet usage during lock-down. As a result gaming, streaming and ISPs have both thrived and profited from the current situation.
The extra free time and flexibility of home working allowed for creative juices to flow and many have turned to starting their own businesses.
Shopify, an e-commerce platform that allows customers to set up their site with shop functionality, with currently more than 800,000 eCommerce sites, reported a huge 97 per cent sales rise over its second quarter last year (higher than eBay) as people were told they would need to find other forms of income.
As many companies have had to adopt the working from home environment, we've all been asked on many occasions "How are you coping?". With more companies focused on well being and employees health.
At first, I struggled I really struggled. My fiancée and I were cooped up on a kitchen table sitting for 8/9 hours opposite each other seated on wooden benches. Our internet often cut out or struggled to handle multiple simultaneous video calls. Connecting to work systems, firewalls, and security restrictions limited our working.
We experienced physical discomfort. Sitting for prolonged periods of time, with no escape from your home or reason to leave your desk (no meetings, colleagues to go talk to) took its toll on our bodies, and boy did we feel it at the end of the day. This was mainly due to being unprepared for working at home, and like many others, our house was not suited for it either.
Over time, once companies had time to adapt and overcome these challenges, I definitely saw the benefits of working from home.
A huge one for me was no commuting, I gained 2 hours of my life back a day.
Financial savings during lock-down or working from home were huge, one reason for this was I didn't have a plethora of eateries on my doorstep. I was able to get some housework done during my lunch (laundry, washing up, hoovering) meaning I had more time when I finished work to relax or enjoy my time.
On top of all this, my workload wasn't affected. I was able to keep on top of all projects and tasks and completed the same number of cards I would if I was in the office. In some ways, I may have been more productive. Some days I worked past my normal working hours, however like many things, it's all about balance, some days you work late / extra hours, then others you may finish earlier (if your work allows flexible working hours that is).
Simple, to some companies it's unfamiliar territory. Perhaps companies believed that working from home would hinder employees; their employees would be less productive, or perhaps they genuinely just wanted all staff where they could see them.
What I have I've seen though, is many more companies especially in the tech industry offering flexible working hours with a core hours base, allowing staff to come and go as they please as long as they're in the office between certain times and complete their contracted daily / weekly hours.
I suspect that once Covid returns to normal, the normal working environment will not be the same. I expect more companies to adopt or offer a more flexible working pattern which will include more time working from home, or some form of hybrid setup.
A recently conducted LinkedIn poll of over 250,000 participants found that over 30% of them said they'd be happy to work 3 days from home, nearly 31% said they'd be happy to work from home full time, and only 4% said they'd rather be in the office full time as normal.
We did a similar poll at our offices and 82% of employees said they'd prefer a hybrid working schedule, with many saying a 60/40 split.
So why wouldn't companies listen to what their employees want? I've listed some pros and cons I can see of allowing employees to have the option to work from home.
Happier employees - employees feel they have some element of control over their work/life balance.
Flexibility - workers have the flexibility to work around their out of work needs e.g childcare, pets, healthcare (doctors,dentists etc)
Office costs - companies can relocate to smaller office spaces due to the smaller number of employees in the actual office.
Company can have flexible salaries - companies are less restricted to competing with salaries in their based cities. They can outsource to other counties or even countries allowing workers to gain work they want without uprooting.
5. Salary Benefits - both the company and the employee can benefit from higher or lower salaries. The company can hire people further afield from their office locations. This means they don't have to pay the 'going rate' in their city, they can pay what they feel is adequate for the candidates' skillset, or experience. On the flip side, employees can stay in their home town, no re-locating for their dream job, or even find a job, and still potentially get the salary they want.
An example would be my home county, their are limited tech jobs so I had to move away in order to pursue a tech career. However remote working could have opened up an opportunity for me within my home county. I could ask for the salary I think I'm worth, rather than a salary the location deems suitable for me. I get paid my worth.
- Less human/social interaction. Some employees may feel lonely or isolated if live alone. However, a Hybrid work approach would be very different from a Covid working environment. And again unlike Covid, this is optional, not mandatory.
Some companies may have initial costs for infrastructure changes and adapting to allow WFH such as equipment, security, health and safety.
Increased costs to the employee of working from home that they didn't expect.
In my opinion, as long as work gets done, deadlines get met why does it matter where workers are. They could be on a desert island. As long as it doesn't cause problems to the company, or hinders them in the long run, I feel it should be made available.
Companies should at least try offering the ability to work from home, perhaps on a 60/40 split (home/office) on a trial basis, if they haven't been doing so during covid already.
Utilise the tools available such as video calling, and instant messaging to communicate. With the intention that the team are all in the office together at least 1 day either a week or fortnight as a catch up to get that human interaction and team bonding (something people have said they missed the most during covid).
Covid has proved that it works and is feasible. With the right preparation, employees could enjoy working from home. Companies, (like I said earlier) may even better skilled remote employees.
I'm not saying companies have to move to a full hybrid working environment, but it should be an option.
As always feel free to leave comments, or contact me on Twitter (link in bio).