Has remote working changed business forever?

As the UK Government start to ease lock down restrictions and people consider how best to return to work, our Investment Manager, Chris Rogers, explores what the future holds for people working from home (WFH) and what businesses should consider as they adapt to new ways of working.

The case for Home Working

Research tells us that WFH has been largely popular with employees. A recent poll by the “Working from Home Show,” indicated that over 50% of employees were happier working at home and felt more productive. The removal of the daily commute means that employees spend similar if not more time actually working, but still have more free time to spend with the family.

Employers looking to recruit may need to consider the future possibility of flexible working practices, in order to attract the best talent.

This viewpoint is reinforced by Lloyds Banking Group who are reported to be considering downsizing their office space to allow for greater WFH, according to the Sunday Times. Lloyds Bank are not alone in this opinion: Barclays CEO, Jes Staley has told reporters that there will be a long-term adjustment to their location strategy, “the notion of putting 7,000 people in the building may be a thing of the past.”

There is a cost implication here that is not lost on the high street Banks. Simply put, if a large proportion of their staff can successfully work from home, it negates the need for large offices in expensive city locations. All of which contributes to the bottom line.

 

But it’s not that clear cut…

There are downsides for employers to consider when looking at flexible working practices. Productivity is key and it is important that the employer sets out the parameters under which WFH is allowed and monitor how productive their employees are. In some industries, monitoring productivity will be straightforward, whilst in others it would be more nuanced.

It is also true that WFH is relatively straightforward when the employees all know each other well and are comfortable with their roles within an organisation. Most of us have had productive video calls with colleagues that we have known for months or years, but how productive would those calls be if the individuals had barely met each other?

Employee induction and ongoing training will also be that much harder in a remote environment. Formal CPD modules can be created and delivered remotely, but sometimes a lot can be learned by simply sitting with a more senior colleague or listening to them dealing with a problem over the phone.

The ability to readily bounce ideas off each other is also lost in the remote environment, often an impromptu brainstorming session can create solutions and strategies that would take significantly longer to develop otherwise.

 

What’s the risk?

As well as the downsides to WFH previously mentioned, there are business risks associated with remote working which need to be understood and mitigated.

Both employers and their staff should be vigilant against cyber threats. Since lock down commenced, the volume of cyber-attacks against home workers has dramatically increased. Recent advice from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) stated that “malicious cyber actors are adjusting their tactics to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, and the NCSC is working round the clock with its partners to respond.” Employers and workers should be alert to the threats from fraudsters and have robust measures in place to protect systems and data.

Employees may have access to confidential or sensitive information which could cause damage if it fell into the wrong hands. In May of this year, the Financial Conduct Authority warned financial firms about the potential risks associated with insider-trading and recommended that firms bolster their systems to prevent misuse of information.

 

What does all this mean for me and my business?

It’s often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and that has certainly been true during the COVID-19 outbreak. Whilst remote connectivity is hardly a new invention, it has never been more necessary than over the past 3 months. Recent advances in cloud-based technology and video conferencing have allowed the migration of work to the home office, that overnight change in working practice would have been impossible just a few years ago.

A forward-thinking business may look to take advantage of these new technologies and the new attitudes to their use, with a view to improving employee engagement and potentially lowering overheads.

All that said, the traditional office environment, with its opportunities for employee collaboration, enhanced training and team bonding certainly has a roll to play in the workplace of the future.

Whilst it will take time to get back to anything like normality, the demise of traditional office seems premature.

Maven provides much more than just finance. We work in partnership with management teams to help shape strategy and deliver on their business objectives, maximising value for all stakeholders. If you would like to find out more about how we could help deliver a strategy for your business after COVID-19, contact us at funding@mavencp.com.

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

Are you looking for funding for your business?

If your business is in need of finance to help unlock its growth potential, MEIF Maven Debt Finance may be able to help. Contact Maven’s local team today to find out more.

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