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Remote working — how it has changed workplaces and 3 essential tips for ensuring your staff are suited to it

The pandemic has changed the world in many ways, including workplace dynamics. It has been a watershed moment for many employers and employees as a greater focus on worker protections, satisfaction and incentives has emerged.

One way workplaces have changed has been the shift to online or remote working. Borne initially out of necessity, as many offices had to shut down during the toughest Covid restrictions, it has now become a perk for many employees and a cost-cutting measure for employers.

Read on to discover how remote working functions and three essential tips for checking your staff are suited to it.

Remote working has moved the office space into employee’s homes

The progress and development of faster internet connections, useful video conferencing apps, and file share networks has provided the platform for remote working being more than an employee fantasy, but an actual practical solution for workplace issues.

Personnel Today reports that remote working has more than doubled in the UK from pre-pandemic levels of 14.5% of total working adults to 30.6% as of March 2022.

It helped many businesses to continue to function during the lockdowns and harsh restrictions of the early stages of the pandemic, and many other benefits have since become apparent to a growing number of employees and employers.

These might include:

  • Work/life balance benefits for employees such as cost saving on travel or office lunches, and being home to receive deliveries or deal with household issues
  • Time-saving benefits as there is no daily commute to/from the workplace
  • Greater opportunities for individuals with disabilities, healthcare vulnerabilities, or childcare needs to gain employment
  • Allowing businesses to access potential talented recruits around the country or abroad, who might have previously been unobtainable due to not wishing to relocate to the businesses’ offices
  • A reduction in workplace costs as a smaller on-site workforce means large, expensive, office spaces are no longer needed, and savings can be made on office supplies, utilities, and other facilities
  • Fewer sickness absences partially due to an improvement in employee health because of less exposure and improved emotional wellbeing.

Remote working can also increase productivity, motivation, and staff retention. However, it can also have disadvantages such as:

  • A negative effect on mental health as employees struggle with isolation or burnout from a blurring of the lines between their work life and their home life
  • Issues with developing workplace bonds as fewer employees have in-face, personal interactions
  • Added costs for employers rising from home computer requirements, work phones, or other IT equipment – as well as ensuring home workspaces meet health and safety guidelines
  • Difficulties monitoring staff performance.

According to a study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 84% of surveyed workers, who had to work from home because of the pandemic, planned to carry out a mix of working from home and in the office in the future.

This is known as “hybrid working” and is likely to be the way that many businesses across the UK function in the coming years and decades.

3 essential tips for deciding if your existing staff and potential recruits are suited to remote working

  1. Carry out comprehensive interviews

This can be beneficial when considering existing staff switching to remote work or in the recruitment process for new hires.

You could look at elements of their background such as if they have:

  • Worked remotely previously
  • A history of setting and managing their own goals and targets
  • Displayed organisational and communicative skills in previous roles that would benefit a remote role.

It is important to understand their personality characteristics as well. Are they capable of motivating themselves? Are they able to focus? Do they have the mental fortitude to deal with the struggles related to remote working?

Some of the best remote workers are natural problem solvers with a history of being self-starters.

You should consider asking direct questions about previous experiences working from home and how they felt about the situation and how they adapted to potential issues. It may be beneficial to learn more about their family and home life and ways it may overlap with their work life should they work remotely.

Finally, consider whether their home is already set up to perform as an office space or if changes needed to be made, such as an outlay on equipment costs or considerations for potential data risks.

2. Check that your staff are able to manage themselves and communicate effectively

For existing staff, it can simply be a case of reviewing their history with your firm and instances that have shown they are capable of managing themselves effectively and being able to clearly communicate with other members of the team and managers across tasks and projects.

Meanwhile, the recruitment process for new planners or administrators may benefit from asking the right questions. It could help you unlock whether this is something they might thrive or struggle with if they end up working remotely.

It is also important to consider whether your business is properly set up to manage a remote workforce. Do you have systems in place to effectively provide quality client service and advice through online platforms? Do you have the right software available to easily share files, communicate internally, and set up virtual meetings? Is it easy for new planners or administrators to update client records and files?

These could all end up being vital considerations for your business.

3. Evaluate the needs of your business and whether their job roles require them to be on-site

If your business doesn’t require direct interactions and hands-on duties, and the majority of work is already done on a computer or online, it may be financially beneficial to consider remote work.

If your staff are often on the road or working in a remote manner already, it could simplify things to base their office at home rather than forcing them to commute to your offices first before embarking elsewhere.

The shift to remote working practices could have major benefits for your employee’s work/life balances and job satisfaction, as well as your firm’s outgoings.

Get in touch

If you would like to discuss in greater detail how a shift to remote working might benefit your firm, and how outsourcing roles or recruitment may simplify this process, you should contact us by email at hello@eparaplan.co.uk or call us on 01733699071.

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