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Covid-19 is likely to result in more remote working, with many more employees working part of the week from home. How do you make all of that run smoothly?
Royal Bank of Scotland has joined the growing number of big employers who will continue remote working past the end of the summer. It has told almost 50,000 staff to work from home until next year. RBS had previously said staff could expect to work from home until the end of September at least. It told staff it will adopt a “cautious” approach to returning to work and plans to provide further guidance later this year. Many employers are adopting a wait and see approach despite Boris Johnson’s statements about returning to the office.
This week it was reported that, in the City, only 800 of Goldman Sachs’ 6,000 London staff have returned, while fewer than 2,000 of the 12,000 at JP Morgan are back. EY, which employs 17,000 people in the UK, will re-open its offices from September 7th, but capacity will be “significantly reduced” and employees will return on a voluntary basis with a desk booking system. And Lloyds Bank is planning to keep roughly 50,000 of its 63,000 workers at home until September at the earliest.
While many employers have found during lockdown that homeworking has proved remarkably more effective than they had previously thought, they are also aware that there are challenges, particularly in the longer term as people adapt to the new ways of working. The first is long-term isolation and mental well being. The lack of face to face contact – except via platforms such as Zoom – can affect some people more than others. The sense of being on a conveyor belt of Zoom calls day in and day out can be wearing, particularly for those who prefer less formal face to face interaction – which may be why a lot of teenagers seem to hate it.
That’s why it’s important to enable different channels for collaboration and interaction as well as to focus on checking in – rather than checking up – on colleagues.
For parents there is, of course, the exhaustion of the double shift with little time to do anything else except work and school. Again recognition of the challenges, spaces to vent and regular check-ins are important as is encouragement to take some respite time when people can switch off – at least from the work side of things.
Then there is the issue of how you get anyone back to ‘normal’ the longer this goes on and the longer other normals become established. Of course, some workers will be desperate to escape remote working by the end of all this. They may live in cramped accommodation or on their own or face any number of other circumstances. But for the majority, as various surveys already tell us, a mixed economy of remote and office working will be the preferred option.
The challenge then is how you make that work within the parameters of business needs, which means empowering line managers and their teams. We’ve seen from countless organisations that it is possible, but that it requires the development of the kind of strategic planning skills which will come in useful whenever the next crisis hits.