For many companies we are sure the thought of Working From Home was not on their radar. If you have all the resources you need in your office, shop or factory and you can avail of that important one-to-one contact at that location, then surely turning a spare room, or even an outdoor shed into a home office isn't needed?
While there is employment legislation in place to facilitate a variety of working patterns, for many businesses across the world remote working, or flexitime does not feature as standard and there are certainly pros and cons to this approach. Research suggests that policies that encourage work life balance can, for example, increase staff productivity, mental wellbeing and reduced levels of absenteeism. Nevertheless, in general the reality of this is complex and the needs of each individual worker and the specific business both should be considered.
The Pros (for your business):
- Reduced overheads (renting office space, electricity etc)
- Improved Employee Retention (giving employees with caring responsibilities flexibility and offer a better work-life balance)
- Can attract and retain millennials (who expect flexibility in their work spaces)
- Opening up your business to a wider scale - hiring remotely means you aren’t restricting your job posts to set locations.
The Cons (for your business):
- Can the same work be done remotely - do we have the resources to make this work?
- Decreased face to face time (employees may feel a lack of support - likewise employers may feel unable to support remotely)
- Lack of employee relationships (do we ever get to know our colleagues?)
- Increased distractions
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic here at Rutledge Group we on occasion liked to encourage our colleagues to work remotely if it was possible for them to do so effectively and without restrictions, although for many of our colleagues to thrive, they were required to be physically in branch (for example our teaching staff), so offering this approach company wide was not something we considered offering.
As we watched from the sidelines at countries slightly ahead of us in this pandemic and as social distancing began to be part of our vocabulary we prepared for our staff to work from home. Yet, could we all really prepare for the unknown; we never knew how many resources we (and our colleagues) all needed or how long we would be remote working for...
It was kind of like packing for a surprise trip not knowing how long you’re going to be away for. Do we need our swimming costumes? Like are we going to be doing activities on this trip? How many shoes do we pack?! We have so many questions here…
“A third of UK businesses have already revised their working practices in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak – yet a wider lack of planning means the nation is among the world’s most ill-prepared for a sustained period of isolation and home-working.” - Business Leader (March 2020)
As a centre for education and recruitment with 15 branches spread across Northern Ireland; Rutledge Group is predominantly an office based environment; so the movement of Working From Home, didn’t come without its changes and challenges.
When lockdown was announced on the evening of 23rd March 2020, like many businesses we were then forced to adapt and actually re-evaluated our business approach. If we look at the animal kingdom, species go extinct if they don’t (or simply can’t) adapt to their environment, a position we didn’t want to be in....
We adapted not what we do, but how we do it. A way in which we could survive.
With businesses now forced to #StayAtHome due to the outbreak we (and many businesses worldwide) all have had tough decisions to make. One of which was to Furlough or not to Furlough? All businesses have had to ask: Can our companies still thrive within home environments and what can be done to help keep it business as usual?
Online teaching through digital technologies (thanks Zoom!) helped us to continue providing a service to our students (a key part of our business). However we weren’t able to adapt for our full services; our business thrives on meeting clients, one-to-one networking and learning more about our local communities.
Yet by being able to adapt that one element of what we do opened us up to a new way of working, to keep in operation; which begs the question what can we all learn from this and how is it going to change our future working environments?