Remote Working - The New Norm

It’s something that has changed our world, our history and affected nearly every human on the planet. It’s regularly formed the basis of our daily conversations and has shaped all aspects of our lives, including the way we work as businesses, employers and employees. It was something that couldn’t have ever been predicted and we all had to adapt sharply and swiftly.

Although many companies have been forced into remote working, they have managed to see some benefits of operating under the ‘new norm’. Not commuting to the workplace has meant the early morning rush has significantly been reduced in favour of a slightly longer lie in. The average commute time in the UK was about one hour a day and the annual commuting time was up 21 hours than that of 10 years ago. [1] Of course this also has meant a change to the end of your working day. Now, your evening begins the exact minute you log off.

Another benefit of remote working, and more specifically working from your own home, is that you get to work in a comfortable environment that was created by you. Everything is set up and in place just how you like it. There is no uninvited office banter to distract you from your task in hand. Although I’m sure we all love our work colleagues dearly and can’t wait to hear how John’s allotment is thriving with prime marrows, a few of these conversations on a Monday can distract us to the point that we feel like not much has been accomplished.

These benefits can also be seen as drawbacks. The worldwide pandemic has meant that being stuck in lockdown has been a very isolating experience for many. The lack of face-to-face interaction has left us feeling lonely and depressed when actually, we’d gladly welcome back that office banter. It can also be a welcome break from the same faces we’ve been seeing every day at home, whether that be partners, housemates, children or even pets. The first time little Felix walks across your keyboard in the middle of a Zoom call can be cute but after the 67th time he does this looking for attention can be annoying, not just for you but for the other people on the call.

Working at home can also mean we’re at the mercy of our own equipment. Even if we’re able to use work laptops, for example, it’s still likely we’ll be using much slower broadband. Connections are likely to be more unstable, especially when having to connect through VPNs. I personally have experienced the frustration of a sub-par home internet connection when working on data-heavy projects.

Possibly the biggest change to the way we work at Soak has been how we communicate. Our daily morning stand-ups have been moved to Google Meet and we’ve been utilising Slack more than ever. When bug-fixing as a developer it was always easier to solve the problem with the help of a fellow developer sitting with you to go through the issue. With social distancing and lockdown rules in place, screen-sharing through Slack has proven to be invaluable. Client meetings have also moved online with one or even two day excursions for a face-to-face meeting now replaced with a much shorter video call. The difference in time, effort and efficiency is evident.

Although we can all agree that the pandemic has been a challenging experience for almost everyone, these may be the positives to take from this unprecedented period of time that could shape the way we work in the future. It’s not just internal and client communications that have changed. In the last 12 months, conferences and workshops have moved to online, seeing good attendance numbers thanks to the convenience of remote access.

Presuming that remote working does indeed become more common, it will be down to businesses to ensure an inclusive, albeit remote, environment still exists and that their employees are feeling motivated and well looked after. Work efficiency should never be increased at the expense of staff well-being. There will always be the danger of isolation and a lack of real-life social interaction. Working from home continuously could also blur the lines between the work and leisure areas in your own house when it's an important balance to your week to separate the two. Not seeing another human being for days, weeks or even months has unfortunately been commonplace for many recently. During the pandemic, Soak has continued to encourage a Friday evening after-work virtual gathering to enjoy some staff chit-chat over a cold orange juice or two.

Depending on how well your government has dealt with the pandemic, it is still uncertain exactly when our work life will resemble that of regularity. We also don’t know how this future will look or how our work life will be different. What we do know is that work now has a different definition of ‘normal’.

[1] https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/annual-commuting-time-21-hours-compared-decade-ago-finds-tuc