Well, let’s face it, for those of us lucky enough to be busy and able to work remotely, we have all got very used to working from home at this stage. After over 15 months of a global pandemic, many of us have invested in some decent home-office kit, we have retired our corporate attire and replaced it with hoodies and jeans, and we have got used to firing up the Teams and Zoom meetings and cracking on with our day. We have embraced the remote office, and for many of us it has been one positive aspect amongst all of the difficulty and tragedy of Covid-19.It has meant we have saved a lot of costs, such as the (not insignificant) commuting expenses, pricey lunches from city sandwich shops, after-work drinks, petrol costs for those who drive to their place of work. Some of us have also been given the opportunity to manage our time how we please, striking a more ambient balance between work and home life, being there for our families more when needed, and in most cases, there is an argument that this has not even impacted our personal work output.
However, I just have a nagging doubt over whether this is going to stick for the long-term. Short to medium term, sure. Big companies are shedding office space (saving themselves a chunk of cash) and talking a great game about how they are changing their model to a more flexible structure. After all, it’s what their employees want, right? And existing employees, who have now proven that they can work from home effectively, will undoubtedly be able to negotiate a flexible office/remote structure when things gradually return to normal in the not-too-distant future.
But what happens when this has all passed and we hire new staff, with the option of having them in the office and being able to manage their performance more directly. Anyone who has worked on a sales floor will know that there is simply no substitute for having eyeballs on your sales staff. Dialling into sales calls to listen, and measuring KPI’s using technology, just doesn’t cut it in the same way. You want your people on site. And in any office, the buzz of colleagues sharing knowledge through day to day relationships cannot be understated. Sure, there may be certain professions such as law and accounting that lend themselves to remote working more, but even then there are still advantages to being with the business and the knowledge that resides in them.
Will we still opt to onboard staff remotely and have mainly virtual interaction with them? Why take that risk, when you can simply insist that they work full time in the office, at least for the first 12 months – or more.
And if a percentage of staff wish to work in the office full time, will they be at an unspoken advantage to their remote working colleagues? After all, they will be closer to their managers who might also be in the office, and therefore be in a position to make a case, over time, for preferred assignments, perhaps even promotions? If that is indeed evident, it is not hard to imagine ambitious remote working colleagues choosing to return to working in the office in order to compete.
It is all very hard to predict. Who knows what will happen really? But, for those out there who insist that the world has forever changed and remote working is now a permanent feature of the employment landscape, I am not so sure …