Home working is becoming the ‘new normal’, what are the implications?

Home working rather than working from the office has been forced on millions of office workers by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Those who get energised by socialising have got the short end of the stick, but the ‘new normal’ has also introduced several compensatory benefits such as reduced commuting time and the related costs, as well as the freedom to make your own schedule. As more and more people embrace and get used to the concept of home working, it looks as though the trend is here to stay. 

What does this mean for the times ahead though, and are we ready to take on the challenges that come with it? 

Home working – the trend that is shaping the world

Since a good portion of 2020 is already behind us, this offers a glimpse into how the world has changed in recent times. In this section, we will look at some of the recent trends and statistics: 

88% of organisations encourage their staff to home work – Gartner conducted a survey that indicates that 88% of organisations from all around the globe are in favour of their employees working from home. 

Even before the pandemic struck, almost 5 million people were classified as remote workers  in the USA, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that roughly 5 million people worked from home even before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. This comprises around 3.4% of the US workforce. Compared to 2015, this makes for roughly 1 million workers who decided to hop on the bandwagon. 

Two out of 10 workers make a full-time income from home working  even more are tapping into online income sources to make some money on the side. 

The vast majority of remote workers claim that they are more productive this way – to all the naysayers, the numbers are in: 77% of those who are home working believe that their productivity has increased. In addition, 37% believe that the key to staying productive over the course of the day is to take regular breaks. 

The pros and cons of home working

As with all things, working from home has its upsides and downsides. In this section, we will be summarising them first, and then going over what can be done to address the emerging issues. 

Upsides to home workingDownsides to home working
Improved productivityLess work-life balance
The ability to plan a flexible scheduleCyber security risks
No commutingCommunication and team management issues
Fewer distractionsLack of socialising

Since the upsides need no further explanation, lets move straight to the matter at hand and see if there is something that can be done to address the downsides of working from home. 

Addressing the work-life balance issue for home workers

A traditional 9-to5 setting, as boring as it can be to non-traditionalists, does have an objective upside to it – namely, it allows you to separate work-related matters from your personal life. Entrepreneurs, freelancers and others who work remotely may enjoy other benefits, but a complete worklife separation is a luxury that is not to be taken for granted. Many of them have simply got used to being on call all the time. 

If your current circumstances look like this, then the solution is to set boundaries and define expectations. Let your clients know when you are available, and do not be afraid to take a breather if you feel like you need to recollect your thoughts. Leave the room if necessary. After all, how are you going to refresh your mind if your laptop and smartphone are always within reach? 

Home working cyber security issues

At work, employees still have to be careful not to jeopardise the company’s IT infrastructure by opening suspicious files or leaving devices unattended, but for the most part, everything can be controlled with greater ease. 

However, when home working, it is next to impossible to have such a firm grip on what employees are doing. While the on-premises computers may have all the latest updates and antivirus solutions installed, can the same be said for the average person’s personal laptop or smartphone? More often than not, this introduces new cyber security issues that are worth thinking about. 

The answer is to educate employees so that they understand these issues as well as instilling a sense of responsibility for protecting any sensitive data they might be handling. If nothing else, the company policy should indicate the sanctions that will follow if proper cyber security standards are not met.

Connectivity when home working can be can provide a security risk when using standard domestic broadband that crosses the public internet and often, will have an insecure router with the default password still in place. You should investigate if you communications provider can offer you a business connection at home for those that are home working or implementing a VPN.

Addressing communication issues

Most would agree that it is easier to explain something in person than it is via written guidelines – the reason being is that the latter creates more room for misunderstandings, especially if the guidelines are poorly written or lack crucial information. It could be that the organisation, whose staff members are working from home, has to establish new means of communication or build an online collaboration channel from the ground up – tools such as Microsoft Teams provide the perfect platform to engage home workers with voice and video communications and screen sharing helping with coaching and communication.

This highlights the importance of writing detailed guidelines with plenty of examples designed to resolve any misunderstandings before they get a chance to emerge. Employees need to be reassured that they will not be looked down upon if they ask for additional explanation and that it will be available as needed.

Addressing the lack of socialising

While introverts typically prefer to be left alone, extroverts are now facing a new crisis. Since they are unable to socialise with colleagues when working from home, they have to seek it out through their own means and in their spare time. 

If socialising safely on your own volition works for you, then no further tweaks are necessary – otherwise, it might be worth thinking about setting up a dedicated company video communication channel through which employees can communicate with each other as well as their supervisors. This not only addresses the socialisation issue but, also, the issue of communication. 

The future of working from home

Since many people would have a hard time going back to the workplace, the great news is that the pandemic has forced businesses to adapt and develop a workflow that suits everybody. This ensures that employees get the job done to the same standards as before. While not every industry can afford their workforce the luxury of working from home all the time (for example, healthcare and tourism), there are many that do. 

As we learn to tackle the emerging challenges, remote working is here to stay – so live it, embrace it, and adapt to it as your unique situation requires. For more information of helping your employees with home working, visit our working from home portal.