What can businesses take away from the recent lockdown?

26 May 2020

Businesses all over the country have had to learn how to conduct some or all of their day-to-day jobs with a remote workforce. And the transition wasn’t easy for many…but there have certainly been benefits.

Our MD recently wrote an article for the magazine East Anglia in Business about the benefits and downsides of remote working. He’s asking: when (if?) you do transition back, what new practices are you going to bring back with you?

This article also appeared in the latest issues of Business Direction, Business Comment, Business Scotland, Business Intelligence, and Business Edge.

With so many businesses transitioning certain parts of the workforce to (and from) remote working over the last several months, there has been a lot of discussion about the best way to manage this. 

There has been all the talk of the logistical elements—which computer is appropriate to use, what should be in the background of video calls, and how will everyone’s internet connection hold up.  

And then there are security considerations—how secure is your video calling platform, how do you use VPN, and where are your team storing their files. 

But once we got over all the practical stuff, my team and I have spent more time reflecting on our remote working experiences. What we’ve enjoyed about working from home. What we haven’t enjoyed. And how we can bring the good bits back with us when we return back to the office. 

Benefits to Remote Working 

Almost everyone here at OpenCRM found themselves enjoying some aspects of home working…even if it was just getting up a bit later with a shorter commute! 

A lot of our developers and non-phone answering people said they found it much easier to “get their heads down” on a particular task. Working from home gave them a reduction in interruptions so they could keep focused on particularly tricky tasks. 

Some others cited a more relaxed approach as their favourite thing about working from home. Now we don’t have a very formal uniform in the office, but apparently even jeans and t-shirts is too formal for some! So the relaxed dress code was a winner.  

I have to say that I quite enjoyed being able to take our dogs for a lunchtime walk. It was a really nice way to unwind from the stress of the morning and get re-focused for the afternoon 

Saying that, when it came to pets and kids, the team was a bit mixed in their response. We all have enjoyed getting to spend more time with our immediate families during this lockdown, but the interruptions could make things tricky from time to time.  

Downsides to Remote Working 

In reality, those distractions at home were the thing our team most often mentioned as making remote working difficult. In some cases, it was kids or pets, in others it was the lure of the laundry basket or washing up bowl. When in the office, those tasks can be happily put to the back of your head, but when they’re in the next room…well, it’s a lot harder. 

I will say that everyone found a way to work through these distractions, but the transition was not easy.  

Add to that the isolation and worry for family and friends? And I would say you’ve hit the nail on the head with the biggest downside to remote working during a global pandemic lockdown: the mental health challenges. 

This was something we as a company (as with every other business making the same transition) had to address very quickly.  

Our shift to video calls instead of normal voice calling or instant messaging for scheduled meetings and impromptu chats went a long way to helping everyone feel connected. We also added a “tea and toast” session every morning before the start of the work day, just to take the place of all those little chats you have with your office mates when you first get into the building. 

I won’t say that fixed everyone’s worries, but it did help to make us all feel like we were part of the same team. That we were all ‘in this together’.  

Transitioning back to the office 

On balance, there were positives and negatives to having our team all working from home. We did what we could to address the downsides, putting a variety of mechanisms in place to keep people feeling connected and on task. 

But what about all those positives? How do you make sure to bring the benefits of remote working back as we all transition into a shared office once again? 

The first question is whether remote working could be made a part of your business going forward. For those job roles that CAN work from home and found a benefit from it, should it be something they do a couple of times a week? Or even just a few days a month? 

If you have people who are more productive when they aren’t in the office, then you certainly don’t want to lose that!  

What about all those people who most enjoyed wearing loungewear while working? Well, you probably aren’t going to change your dress code to allow bunny slippers, but are there other things you can do to make your staff more comfortable? 

You could institute casual Fridays, for example. Or relax the dress code for those people who are never customer facing? 

The important thing to consider when returning to the office after lockdown is ask yourself (and your team) what elements of home working they’d like to bring back with them to the office? I am sure that an open and frank conversation about the pros and cons will tell you everything you need to know about what your team most values.