In light of the pandemic, both employers and employees are now reviewing what the future dynamic of their role may look like. When forced into home working situations, many businesses have flourished rather than floundered. Staff have demonstrated that they can in fact be trusted to be proactive when left to manage their own workloads. So, could this be a win-win? As big players, such as NatWest, begin to encourage their staff to ‘work anywhere’, is the landscape of office working heading toward an irrevocable change?
Advantages of remote working
There are some potential benefits that come with moving away from large-scale office environments. These include:
Opportunity for significant reductions in overheads and operational expenses
No office means no business rates such as rent and utilities. Yes, there may be an initial outlay for equipment to enable team members to set up at their home or shared working space. But for many businesses, the potential savings could far outweigh this investment.
The potential to significantly broaden the scope for recruitment
When you can work anywhere, you can work with anyone. Thus, businesses could be opening their metaphorical doors to a wealth of talent and skill sets. Tapping into human resources from further afield, can even build the foundations for expanding your business’ reach.
Flexible working hours may help get the best out of your team
If work is not time sensitive, remote working may in fact increase output. Allowing staff members to manage their own workload, in their own time frame, may in fact result in greater productivity.
Potential impacts of leaving the office behind
There are, of course, potential negative implications associated with moving away from the traditional office setting.
Collaboration and idea generation
Will the digitalisation of communication, and removing the ability for colleagues to collaborate and bounce ideas off one another in person, stunt growth and development? A particular area of concern for creative industries.
For organisations with an established business culture, the shift from communal working environments may prove a challenging adjustment. It will be important for businesses to strategize efficiently to facilitate a smooth organisational transition.
As we have all probably experienced, technology does not always play nicely. What will the impact be on productivity if there is a significant increase in the dependence on electronic devices for business operations?
If companies do away with their own offices and rely solely on homeworking, will the physical and mental needs of staff be met? Also, the lack of environmental diversity could potentially lead to burnout and longer working hours.
Is a hybrid of office and remote working the answer?
This is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. For example, not all companies can do away with office spaces entirely, and some tasks are time sensitive and must be completed within regular working hours. So, could a hybrid be the answer?
Some companies are choosing to reduce the size of permanent office spaces, or repurpose desk working into collaborative areas such as meeting and conference rooms. This is then being offset with home working, or the use of more cost-effective shared serviced office spaces, by individuals or small teams. This is more financially beneficial for businesses and offers more freedom and flexibility to employees. Plus, having a combination of remote and in-house workers also allows businesses to increase their staff-force without having to increase their building capacity. Having smaller offices, using co-working options and amalgamating in-house and distance working, may prove beneficial for businesses and staff alike.
Could transitioning to flexible office spaces be the future?
The truth is, it is too early to know whether the transition from full-time business premises to remote or rented workspaces will be a permanent one. However, it is also unlikely that the future of business operations will return to its original form. It is clear that the traditional ‘office work’ culture has changed for the foreseeable. Only time will tell whether companies choosing to operate their own offices is set to become a thing of the past.