What is Covid-19 teaching businesses about the future of the UK workplace?
Onecom hosted a virtual roundtable of business leaders at small and medium-sized businesses to delve into some of the biggest challenges facing organisations as lockdown measures continue to change. A range of thought-provoking insights came out as the leaders from a range of sectors, including property, facilities management, plumbing, leasing, third sector, automotive and insurance share their approach to this unprecedented challenge.
The full report is here: https://onecom.co.uk/onecom-virtual-round-table/ but here’s a short summary of the points covered. The business leaders also shared their top tips [insert link] for successful homeworking.
What have some of your biggest lockdown challenges been and how have you overcome them?
The Office of National Statistics reports that 49% of the UK’s workforce has been working from home during the lockdown, meaning that businesses have had to work hard to get their office-based staff set up remotely. But what have the implications of this been for businesses?
The consensus around our virtual table was that:
- Getting the right technology in place for successful day to day working has been a big challenge
- Getting call centres set up to work remotely was a unique challenge given it is rarely done from home
- Setting up video, team and work management platforms such as Microsoft Teams was a common solution
- Suddenly being unable to print or scan key documentation for businesses needed to be overcome
- Redefining staff etiquette and respect given the sudden move to remote-working and the challenges many had personally in making it work due to the circumstances of their home office environment.
Maintaining good mental health in the face of isolation, difficult home-working environments and the pressure of uncertainty was a priority around the table. The table shared a concern around employees burning out given the difficulty in managing work/ life boundaries.
Good communication has always been critical to a smooth operation. The table shared just how important it was to come up with a communication strategy that both enabled the teams to maintain great levels of collaboration and keep staff motivated. On the latter, spirits have been kept high with bingo, fancy dress, quizzes and fitness challenges. Telephone-based walking meetings have encouraged fresh air and exercise. The team at Pobl also shared how they had tried to bring together those still in offices with those at home, via the Pobl Window – a live stream from the office. More regular all-hands calls from the top have also helped keep businesses feel a sense of togetherness.
Onecom’s Operations Director, Helen Myers stated that she had some positive findings from Onecom’s experience of shifting to home working: “We’ve found that despite many home distractions, productivity among our workforce has increased across the board which is great to see. Due to this, we’re currently working towards a strategy on how to work out a better balance of office vs home working in the future”.
The ’new normal’
With more and more ‘non-essential’ businesses now opening their doors, is the traditional working office a thing of the past, and are more businesses open to their workforce spending less time in the office and more in the comfort of their own homes? A recent study by Working Families discovered that 90% of employees are keen for employers to maintain some form of flexible working, and our own survey research found that 56% of small and medium-sized businesses believe that the way in which their teams operate has changed forever as a direct result of the lockdown.
It was also discussed that the term office may now a little old-school. Collaboration spaces may be referred to instead, where colleagues can come together away for their home-working environment to discuss ideas and work on projects.
Across the board, flexibility was at the forefront during discussion around this topic with all panellists thinking about offering as much flexibility as possible moving forward. Cost-saving was mentioned as an incentive for businesses to have more staff working from home permanently.
This offering of a more flexible working solution for the future is backed by a survey conducted by chartered accountancy and consultancy firm Theta Financial Reporting, who identified that 57% of 2,000 UK staff didn’t want to go back to a purely a traditional office-based set up1.
In summary, it’s clear that SMEs have been attempting to think outside the box since the forced shift to home working. They have considered employee health and wellbeing alongside common homeworking distractions, plus how to maintain a sense of involvement and team spirit. Now that companies have worked hard to realise and overcome many of the tech-related issues that were first apparent, the way has been paved for a very different approach to work. Come 2021 or when Covid-19 no longer poses a threat, it will be interesting to see how many businesses are offering enhanced flexible working schemes, have re-purposed the office to include more collaboration spaces and how many have homeworking baked fully into their weekly routine.
Click here to see the full report.