The New Normal – Remote Working

The current pandemic will change the way we work. Not necessarily during the next year, but certainly soon. I think that generally this will be a good thing because it has benefits for all: employees, employers, the local community, and the planet. With improvements in virtualization and cloud computing, and the government’s drive to achieve good broadband connectivity everywhere, this is certainly feasible.

What the current situation (i.e., COVID-19 lockdown) has shown is that the performance management practices that have been put in place over the last few decades make managing remote workers no different than managing office-based personnel. A person is given period targets in line with their role and if they are met or exceeded then the employee may be awarded a bonus and/or pay rise. This works regardless of whether they are in the office or at home; targets still can be met and monitored.

There are also IR35 implications for contractors, where it might be easier to show that roles are outside the IR35 regulations – but I will not discuss that today.

How employees are affected

Employees generally fall into three categories

  • working remotely full-time
  • working both in the office and remotely
  • working in the office

Fully Remote

There are reasons why employees would work remotely, mostly they would be people who have a long commute to work are likely to opt for working from home.

Pros

Cons

Less stressful as there is no commute

Need to have a study or office room to ensure company confidentiality is kept

Better work/life balance

Using more energy at home

No commuting costs

Very little interaction with other people

Can get a lot done as very few distractions

  

Generally, the pros and cons level out – especially when considering costs. The cost saving from commuting would probably more than cover the increased cost of electricity and heating.

Remote and Office based

An employee who wants to work in the office for some days and remotely for the others, could be someone who would like improve their work/life balance or has reasons why it is not possible to work from home all the time.

Pros

Cons

Better work/life balance

Using more energy at home

Reduced commuting costs

Need to have a study or office room to ensure company confidentiality is kept

Can get a lot done as very few distractions

 

Office based

Employees might not be able to work from home sometimes it is just not possible. There may be too many distractions, or they live alone, or there may not be room to ensure company confidentiality can be kept. In that case the employee would need to work in an office.

How employers are affected

Employers need to plan for the number of employees whom they would be able to support in each of the above three environments. There is a consequential impact on office space, infrastructure, and hardware.

Office Space

Office space could be smaller than the current environment, with areas setup for office-based hot-desking staff. One possibility is that business enterprise centres closer to home could be used for employees who have a long commute.

Infrastructure

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has meant that companies’ infrastructure has had to change in order to meet the challenge of remote working, so most of the necessary effort has been made to allow for both home- and business-enterprise-centre-based working. Clearly, it will take time to improve the maturity of new remote working infrastructure.

Hardware

Depending upon how the remote working infrastructure has been achieved, there is a potential cost saving in the hardware required, especially if virtual desktops have already been used as part of a solution for working remotely.

How communities are affected

There are several impacts that this new way of working will make, affecting the employees’ local community and the office’s local area.

The obvious one is the reduction in road traffic and congestion. This would result in less stress for everyone and better air quality as pollution levels fall.

What would change in the support businesses around the office? These may not be as busy as previously, with fewer people attending the office, but there will be more need for support businesses where employees reside, or at their business enterprise centres.

In conclusion

If the new way is a mixture of remote- and office-based working, it could be beneficial to everyone, almost like going back to cottage industries. It could reduce the need for people to live close together in big towns and cities, which would have a great impact when trying to achieve social distancing. Smaller towns and villages would be able to get the much-needed requirement for support businesses (like the local shop and post office). Generally, I can see this as a win/win situation.

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