With the news Twitter, Square, Facebook and Shopify are all considering a long-term work from home solution for employees after COVID-19, the future of the office has been brought into question. Many businesses have proven that they can work remotely without implicating the quality of their service, and staff are enjoying the luxury of working in their own space. It’s reported that over 13 million Brits plan to ask their employer about a more flexible working solution after the pandemic in an attitude that is mirrored worldwide.
Before employers jump to abandon their office and rent payments, it’s important to note that the way we’re working now is far from typical; those that can work from home are confined to their own space and have little freedom or alternative. However, once restrictions are lifted, working from home will no longer be our only option. Instead, we’ll have a work from anywhere (with a good internet connection) attitude.
Some employees may need the office; they may not have the luxury of an internet connection at home, they may need the social side of work to improve their mental health or simply crave routine that getting out of the house brings. Others, however, may love the ease that working from home brings them; it will solve childcare issues, reduce the cost and time of commute and even allow them to work in a space that they feel most creative or productive. It’s a tricky situation because there’s no one size fits all.
Facebook is reported to be opening hubs in key locations so that workers have a choice to work independently in a space that suits them or come together to collaborate. This solution reinforces the idea of “Work from Anywhere” and gives employees the freedom to dictate their own working day and environment. If they can’t work from home, they don’t have to and vice versa.
A work from anywhere culture opens doors that were once not possible for many. It presents new opportunities for both businesses and individuals, which cannot be overlooked. However, is it all as glamorous as it seems and do the benefits outweigh the negatives? We’ve weighed up some advantages and disadvantages to a work from anywhere culture that employers should be made aware of before they make any rash decisions about life in the new normal.
Having a remote working culture can help to improve diversity in your workforce. Before COVID-19, it was reported that 62% of U.S. workers would consider moving to a different location for a job, so imagine if they didn’t have to? Relocation is costly and often a daunting experience; you’re away from loved ones and are essentially starting again somewhere new, changing all aspects of life for you and your family. If businesses allow their team to work remotely most of the time, then location isn’t an issue. It opens the role to a whole new pool of talent for whom relocation may not have been a possibility before. This includes those who can’t leave their families, have disabilities and can’t travel too far or those who can’t afford to live in big cities like London or New York.
Looking outside the physical limitations of the office gives great candidates a chance to apply no matter where they live and creates a broader and more diverse applicant pool. Opening roles up to a wide variety of locations and even countries gives you a range of perspectives, experiences and opinions helping you to find new solutions to problems and keeping your brand fresh. It also allows for potential global expansion, without considering real-estate costs.
Better quality of hire
Again, as you aren’t confined to geographical limitations, it means you don’t have to settle when it comes to the quality of talent. Previously, companies may have had to accept that people that have the required skills don’t live in their area or choose to work where jobs are more readily available for them. By implementing remote working into your company culture, you can ensure that you are not limited to the talent on offer. Someone who lives miles away from the office is now able to work for you thanks to modern technology, meaning that you can focus on the quality of hire rather than the convenience.
With a work from anywhere culture, employees are less restricted, which could improve productivity, creativity and mental health. Yes, many will choose to work from the comfort of their own homes, but once the COVID-19 lockdown is over, there’s the option of coffee shops, friends’ houses, libraries even hospitals if they have a sick relative and want to be with them. If there is an internet connection, many employees will be able to log on and work, no matter where they are in the world.
However, if you still have an office space for those who can’t work from home, employees still feel they can visit and work from there when needed. They have a safe space for when they need to concentrate and can’t afford to be distracted. By removing the phrase “Working from Home” and replacing it with “Working from Anywhere,” you get a sense of freedom and flexibility. Employees have the choice to come in and collaborate or work in a place that suits them. It also instils a feeling of trust, as an employer you’re saying you believe they’ll get the work done to a high standard regardless of location and environment.
Will we ever switch off?
Like working from home, working from anywhere culture will make it harder for employees to switch off. It will be harder to differentiate between holiday days and those where you’re meant to be working. Working in the home makes it easy to work longer hours, as employees will take time to finish tasks and without the commute spend longer at their computers. It’s also easy to go back to work once you’ve logged off if you don’t have to go into the office to do so. Let’s say they see an email come in and feel guilty for not logging on and resolving the issue immediately or give up their weekends to finish a project that’s playing on their mind because they can.
If employees can work from anywhere what’s to stop employees from taking their laptops on holiday with them? Will they feel inclined to work even on annual leave? How can you differentiate from a working day and a holiday day? Companies will have to ensure that boundaries are set so that workers don’t feel guilty for switching off and having days away from work. Otherwise, burnout will take over, and you’ll be facing new recruitment challenges as well as damage to your employer brand.
Competition is higher
While opening the doors to working from anywhere is great for attracting talent and widens the scope of your talent pool massively; the same rules apply for everyone else. The COVID-19 crisis has made many businesses reconsider the way they work and whether an office space is crucial. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re the only one who offers a remote culture when we enter the new normal.
Remote working becoming the norm will mean that competition for the best talent will be much higher. In the past, the war on talent has been limited by geography. Businesses have been restricted in their choice of talent depending on the office location and whether candidates are willing to move. In the new normal, when an office space is not essential, you’ll be competing with companies on a global scale, not just a local one. While more talent will be available to you, more jobs will be available to candidates. The war on talent is about to get interesting. Companies will have to step up employer branding and employee value propositions to stand out from the crowd.
Harder to control staff
During a global lockdown, working remotely has been surprisingly simple for many. Businesses run well when we’re all confined to our homes with no alternative workspace, but when we have the option of coffee shops, libraries, trains and other public spaces will we work well with distractions? It may be harder to get hold of employees when we have no idea where they are and when we do get hold of them, will they be focused on their work or will productivity suffer? Poor internet connections in public spaces and noisy locations could have implications on business that are more serious than interrupted Zoom calls.
Employers should trust staff to work remotely, and many have proven to be more productive in their own space or able to balance the distractions of home-schooling with work. We’ve been working under immense emotional strain during a pandemic. However, working from the confines of your home (no matter what your make-shift office situation) is going to be different from working anywhere in the world. At the minute, those lucky enough to be working from home have the benefit of a bubble, allowing them to focus on the job. When we return to a new normal and the bubble bursts, will remote working be the same? This must be taken into consideration, and strategies should be put in place to ensure work is still done. Flexibility is a benefit, and something employers need to ensure their staff don’t take advantage of.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to the flexible working culture that will no doubt become the normal after COVID-19. While it may be irresponsible for some businesses to remove the office completely, working remotely could benefit employees and improve your employer brand significantly. Take the time to stop and consider all options before planning for a post-COVID future. If you need any assistance recruiting talent that will make remote working a possibility or refining your EVP to reflect changing attitudes, our team are on hand to help.