Remote working has quickly become commonplace for millions of people in the UK during the lockdown. But with the Prime Minister announcing the plan to slowly bring people back to their offices and Twitter saying it will allow its staff to work for home ‘forever’, it begs the question of whether the way we work will ever be the same?

We asked Andrew Bradshaw, CEO of SHL, a talent innovation company, as well as an independent career coach Evelyn Cotter, Founder of SEVEN Career Coaching, to share their insight.

1. Remote working is not a passing trend and could become the new norm.

“Working from home is certainly not a trend,” says Evelyn Cotter. “It already is the norm for many progressive businesses and the more traditional workplaces are being pushed to catch up.

“The days of needing offices filled with hundreds of people seems to be nearing an end. Being more efficient with our individual energy and our communal energy will hopefully be a staple that will come from this.”

“Flexible working is what will come from this and a slower way of life, where we are thinking more of the environmental impact of everything we do. Having on and off weeks in the office is an excellent environmental initiative our cities could benefit from.”
“Besides,” Cotter continues, “employees are happier, more productive and more loyal to the company when they are given more personal responsibility and feel ownership of the conditions that work best for them.”

Andrew Bradshaw from SHL explains further: “The transition to remote work due to the pandemic has occurred swiftly and without much consideration of the impact on either productivity or the employee’s well-being. Once we return to normal, these aspects will have to be addressed.”

2. Technology will play a much larger role than before.

“At the baseline,” Bradshaw says, “employers will need to ensure the workforce has the appropriate technology necessary to complete work tasks in the home environment. This includes strong internet connection, appropriate computer hardware and communication applications such as Microsoft Teams or Skype.

“Recent advances in communication technology and remote collaboration tools make remote work, interaction, and collaboration more feasible than at any point in the past and it is likely that many workers who began working remotely during this pandemic will never return to traditional offices.”

3. Managing people’s individual work styles will be essential.

SHL’s Bradshaw explains: “Beyond the technology, it is paramount that employers can effectively identify and manage their employees’ work styles, skills, and behaviours to ensure successful performance in the remote environment. This means maximising an employee’s productivity as well as helping them adjust to remote work.

“Assessments will allow employers to take a snapshot of an individual’s current capabilities in specific areas to identify what areas of strength they may have, or more importantly in this case, areas of weakness that a manager should focus their attention on during coaching or interventions.”

According to Evelyn Cotter, it is about playing to your team’s strengths and designing how your team works around those strengths. She elaborates: “More introverted personalities may not need or want several team meetings and just want to focus on getting the work done. Extroverts, on the other hand, need to externally process, share, collaborate and require feedback as they achieve more that way.”

4. Employers need to help staff maintain work relationships.

Andrew Bradshaw says: “You need to assess the employee’s ability to utilise appropriate technological means to maintain working relationships with colleagues, build strong cooperative working relationships, and to continue to share knowledge with colleagues when needed. Ensuring this will not only positively impact productivity, but will likely increase work motivation as well.”

Evelyn Cotter reinforces that there is a need to reinvent how you create and nurture the culture that will most benefit your team: “Having champions in your team who can lead and ensure fun initiatives aren’t just started, but embedded into the daily life of your team, are really important.”

She suggests monthly calls for different teams to share ideas and make suggestions for improvements. “Feeling heard and seen by acknowledging great work and achievements is even more important when your team is remote,” she explains. “Essentially creating ways for your team to bond and feel they matter and are contributing to something worthwhile is the key to create loyal and dedicated remote employees.”

5. Management needs to focus on establishing good work habits.

According to SHL’s Andrew Bradshaw, it is important to assess an employee’s ability to successfully work autonomously, to stay focused on tasks, and to use their time efficiently when outside of an office environment.

“Believe it or not,” the spokesperson says, “research has actually shown that those working remotely are more productive than those in an office! An employee who can perform well in these areas is one that is ready to meet the demands of their job while working in a remote environment.”

Evelyn Cotter thinks it’s about a change of mindset, too, where employers need to trust their workers more: “Focus more on outcomes and less on time,” she says. “Have systems in place for you or your managers to assess activity, quality and daily output. Of course, more trust is required, but ultimately people are much happier and more productive when they are not micromanaged and feel trusted.”

6. Don’t neglect professional development and wellbeing.

Bradshaw believes it’s important to understand the level of engagement your employee is feeling through their efforts to seek out additional work, to look for developmental opportunities to improve their performance and how well they can adapt to change in the work environment.

He says: “One thing to remember is that many individuals did not choose to work remotely, but instead were forced to do so due to the global pandemic. Given this context, it will be important for the employee to remain engaged with their work despite the changes forced upon them as engaged employees are productive employees.”

7. Remote interviewing can replace face-to-face recruitment.

According to Bradshaw: “Similarly to advances in communication technology, tools designed to facilitate synchronous and asynchronous video interviewing have recently emerged. These platforms, which can be humanly scored or scored automatically using artificial intelligence, will likely see a dramatic surge in use during the pandemic, even with overall hiring rates down. Furthermore, they will be expected to see further increased usage as hiring activity resumes

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