Workplace evolution: standing on the cliff edge of change

Welcome to the new world of work.

But a word of caution. We might just find that – once the dust settles – this brave new world isn’t that different to the old one.

Big or small, most companies have wrestled with, planned for and even dabbled in introducing more remote and flexible working models. Now this is being imposed upon us.

Much has been written about how remote working and home working (and they are two different things) will change businesses beyond recognition.

This is nonsense.

“It’s evolution, not revolution.” A phrase made famous by Clifford Berryman’s 1934 cartoon about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal… and latterly, brilliantly bastardised in an Alan Partridge sketch.

This is what we are about to experience.

Lockdown has been abrupt and painful. But it has also provided a natural transition point for how we work at a time when many of us were already standing on the cliff edge of change.

It’s a line in the sand. An opportunity for renewal, where we recognise the things we were doing that had become archaic, and consider how we can adapt and progress to make work better.

This isn’t a seismic shift. Nobody is advocating closing every office in the land. There are no campaigns for a global ban on meeting rooms post COVID-19 (though some would argue there should be one).

This is a chance to take the good we learn from our time working remotely and make it part of whatever our new normal might be.

We’ve worked remotely since we founded three-and-a-half years ago and I’m here to tell you that there is no silver bullet here. More flexible approaches to working won’t cure all of your ills. They won’t stop a recession.

But, when done right, remote working leads to happier, more productive staff and creates a better work-life balance. Those are all good things.

I’ll blog on the reasons why we work remotely another day. For now I’ve attempted to bust some myths for those considering how they might introduce more remote and flexible working over the long-term.

These are based on our experiences along the way. I hope you find them helpful:

Culture and performance

Buildings don’t build culture. Having more desks won’t make your processes better. It’s people. It is always about people!

I’ve heard claims that being remote will affect your team spirit. Will make you less efficient or effective as a business. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Leadership, trust and communication are what matter. As is recruitment.

Staff wellbeing

All businesses, whatever size and however they are run, have a duty to wellbeing. For remote companies, that manifests itself in different ways.

Some people thrive working remotely, others will find it more challenging.

There is always a trade-off. There’s no need for long commutes, and people have more time for friends and family, but loneliness can become a bigger factor.  Working practices need to change to meet new challenges.

It’s important to remember that being remote doesn’t mean that you’re tied to your dining room table. It means you can work wherever’s best for you. Meeting up regularly (once we’re allowed) is important for our professional and personal relationships.

Trust is king

Remote working thrives in businesses with a high trust culture.

For those used to being micromanaged it is going to be a big shift and it could be a difficult time for staff. Managers will have to adapt to giving up more control.

If teams are used to managing their workloads and feel empowered they will thrive and productivity will likely go up.

Do what works for you

Every business is different. Every person is unique. Some of us do our best work in an office, others crave more freedom. It will ultimately be up to leaders to decide how much and quickly they feel their organisation can adapt.

This isn’t for everyone, but it’s going to play a big role in the future of work. Staff will come to expect flexibility. They will see the value in having more control over their own time. Now is the time to learn the lessons and find out how different working models features in your future.

Bobbie Hough