Remote working — it’s been an… experience, hasn’t it?
Whether you love rolling out of bed at 8:30 for a day working in your pjs or you can’t get anything done without the background noises of your colleagues chatting and typing away — it’s hard to admit we haven’t all learned something working from home.
Whether you’re an employee or a business owner, the lockdown period and remote working measures have provided many of us with key insights into what does and doesn’t work for them. These are quality insights that can be used to remodel our futures — making us more productive, improving the workplace, and making us generally happier in our work lives.
Here are the key lessons you and your work should be taking back into the office.
Remote working is a realistic alternative
Perhaps the key lesson of all of this.
It’s not as if remote working was a non-existent idea prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Many forward-thinking businesses (particularly in the more digital industries) offered remote working as an option for their staff, alongside flexi-work hours to accommodate modern lifestyles.
However, many businesses were heavily opposed to it — citing theories around lost productivity and a lack of connection between team members as their main reason for keeping everyone in the office without exception.
The success with which many companies have worked from home throughout the pandemic has proven this idea completely wrong. While some companies have no doubt struggled, the majority have found that with the right systems, equipment and attitude in place, a company can operate fully remotely in 2020.
A few years ago this may have been a disastrous period for productivity and finances. Now though? There’s no excuse for companies to not at least embrace the idea of remote working as an option — especially as a solution for integrating staff back into the office slowly when restrictions are lifted and conditions are safer.
Atmosphere is important
We all want to work somewhere with a nice atmosphere. The spacious, open-plan layout. An abundance of plants. Trendy kitchen areas where people can sit together and collaborate.
No doubt you already had or were walking towards that in some sense pre-pandemic — but post-pandemic it’s important to learn the lessons of how people stayed productive and positive while working from home.
First, the boring part. People need practical spaces that give them everything they need to get the job done. Maybe you lifted your desk from the office and dropped it in your bedroom — or maybe the company invested in a whole host of equipment to make sure everyone could work. Whether it’s monitors or headphones to block out noisy housemates, it’s vital this equipment isn’t tossed aside but properly utilised in the office.
Now onto the fun stuff. What have you really enjoyed working from home? The background noise of the TV? Maybe an office radio could raise the mood. Having your plant children around you? Some office foliage might make it a more inviting place to work. Casual chats with your housemates or partner in the kitchen over coffee? Maybe social coffee breaks could help people ease back into office life. Little things like this could make all the difference when you’re back in the office.
Tools! Tools! Tools!
Other than the perseverance of the human spirit, the number one thing that has helped companies navigate the choppy waters of remote working is digital tools.
Yeah, you need your laptops, monitors and desk chairs — that’s a given. But digital tools? They’re the hardworking MVPs making sure everything is running just like you’re back in the office — with no disrupted pipelines and a global pandemic not happening outside your window.
Digital tools have helped us with everything from collaborating on projects to getting together for Friday evening drinks. It feels dated to say at this point considering how intertwined with remote working they are, but without project management and creative tools, the majority of even the most forward-thinking companies would be struggling.
Rather than go back to your old ways (physical paperwork over Google docs anyone?) commit to the new tools and measures that got you through lockdown. We guarantee the whole team will love it.
Communication at work is important. It’s how we explain tasks, come together to form new concepts and make slow Wednesday afternoons go a bit faster. Communication is key to bringing teams together and making them successful.
The idea of meetings has become a bit of a joke in recent times though. Yeah, we all know some could just be emails, but they also take so much valuable time out of the company.
Company-wide get-togethers for presentations, client visits for dinner and big sit-down briefing sessions? They all take hours out of people’s day. While the break is sometimes appreciated and it’s nice to get everyone in the same room for personal reasons, it doesn’t make sense to do it every week.
This is especially true when you consider how well the remote working alternatives have done. Communication through messenger style services? Makes sense to me. Virtual meetings with clients halfway across the world? Save the price of a plane ticket. Thanks to technology, there’s always an easier way.
Your business doesn’t have to become one of hermits chained to their desk, but it’s important to notice blank spots of productivity and work towards an alternative.
Maybe we all work too much
Most importantly, we should all take with us the lesson of knowing when it’s right to slow down.
This has been a hectic period, with professionals working from home estimated to be spending huge amounts of their day working overtime. Not only is this not fair or healthy, but it’s also unsustainable.
If you and your business are walking back into the office with the mindset that remote working has shown we can all do much more and we need to keep moving forward to keep productivity high then you have completely the wrong idea.
If this period has taught us what’s important, it’s taking care of ourselves and making sure we prioritise the bigger things in life.
Companies should now know how to protect their staff from the perils of remote working and overtime culture. And those tools you’ve been using to monitor activity can be used to tell someone exactly when it’s time to pack up, leave their desk and head home for a much-deserved break.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably learned a lot about yourself throughout the lockdown and remote working period. The limits of your concentration, the tools you couldn’t live without and just what makes a great office. Find your key lessons and carry them into that first day back in the office.