From remote working to hybrid working: the new working week
A year since the start of lockdown, we are all used to the concept of working from home (WFH). At the start of lockdown, we had no choice but to work remotely from our home offices, on laptops and desktops, set up on kitchen tables, spare bedrooms or in a study. By March 2020, Zoom had a record number of downloads, with 200 million users in March and 300 million by April, with staff logging on to keep in touch with colleagues or attend remote ‘face-to-face’ meetings. For many, it was the first time they had worked remotely from their homes and it hasn’t been without challenges. With the end of the first lockdown, companies slowly started asking employees to come back into the office, for a day or longer, but many still being given the option of spending most of the working week, working from home.
The pandemic has redefined the way employers and employees work within an organisation and the new initiatives and technologies required that ensure employee safety, while still maintaining productivity. No longer do many employees need to be in the office five days a week, with most continuing to do their jobs remotely, just efficiently via wifi, with the rest of the workforce. Not only has it enabled businesses to function during the pandemic, it has given their workforce a much more flexible working environment. We are now seeing a transition of employees going back to their offices and working flexible weeks, split between days in the office and days working remotely at home; a hybrid 'flexible' working model.
For many organisations, the pandemic forced an immediate change in how they continued their day to day business. There could be no interruption in the day to day running of a business, so they had to adapt fast to keep functioning as a business. Zoom enabled companies to continue 'remote' face-to-face meetings, so that acted as a supervisory role that kept employees and employers in regular contact and employers knew that their employees were at their desks 'working' and could therefore keep an eye on them. Many employees had never worked at home before and there needed to be a level of self discipline to work at home. The government had instructed everyone to 'work from home' and businesses had to adapt to that.
For many companies, the concept of their staff working remotely has completely broken company work patterns. Staff had traditionally commuted to offices, they had desks to work at in their specific departments and their entire working day was spent in an office. Now that has all changed, and for some, the working week will never be spent 9 to 5, five days a week, in the 'office'. Remote working for some will continue to be the norm, keeping in regular contact via wifi.
If employees are to work from home, there are data security issues to consider, making sure secure connections are put in place on an employees laptop at home, email is sent securely and that any company data remains safe and secure while being accessed by an employee working from home and that data sharing between one remote worker and another also remains safe from any cyber security threats. Data can be stored on cloud, data files can be shared via Dropbox, Box, WeTransfer, Microsoft 365 stack, OneDrive and SharePoint.
Over the last year, we have seen a shift in the way people work. Apart from the time spent commuting into a physical office, the working day is very much the same as before the pandemic, but now workers are able to choose whether they work at home or at work during the working week. This flexibility has lead to greater work satisfaction levels and that has benefitted both the employee with a more flexible working week and employer, who now has staff that are more productive, as they can time manage their week more efficiently.
In a recent Salesforce blog post, Brent Hyder, defines the three different categories of work as ‘flex’, ‘fully remote’, and ‘office-based’. Flex would mean coming into the office one to three days per week and only for “team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations,” and Salesforce expects most of its employees to fall into the ‘flex’ category.
The 'flex' or what is now being referred to as the 'hybrid' working category will be the model that many organisations will adopt over the coming months or even years, as workers slowly return to their offices. The safety of the workforce is still a major consideration for companies with remote workers and no business wants to risk the health of their staff by bringing staff back into busy office environments; staff who have adapted to their new roles, while working remotely, without too much disruption to their working weeks. Allowing staff the flexibility to choose when they come into the office, will lead to a better and more flexible working environment.