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2021 The Incredible Year When Office Work Changed Forever.

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Spotting Trends in Business

One of my daily tasks is to read through the major business press to see the trends that will affect the virtual office sector and our many clients who depend on it.  So much has been written about COVID and work from home #WFH that one can easily get confused on what the current thinking is and how the debate is shaping up.  So this article is really just a quick catch up on how expert6 opinions are looking at the effect of #WFH and also how companies will deal with the return to normal office work #RTN .

One of the most prominent pundits on the UK workplace is Sir Cary Cooper from the chartered Institute of Personnel and development.  He has dedicated much of his career to finding the most productive and healthy work routines.

Dr Cooper has conducted  studies about working from home (WFH)

He said: “The findings showed it enhanced job satisfaction, there was higher productivity, and less sickness and absence. But what most people didn’t want is what we’ve been doing in the pandemic: remote work 100 per cent at the time.”

He makes the point, which resonates with many people, that before the pandemic working from home was synonymous with slacking, that to ask to work from home would harm one’s career.

In spite of all the tempting distractions whilst working away from the office, he reports that people overall have been more productive than they were before.

Other reports are less clear cut on this issue.  A piece in this week’s economist looks at research conducted at an Asian technology company between April 2019 and August 2020.

The firm uses software installed on employees’ computers that track which applications or websites are active, including whether the employee is using

The staff worked harder than before the pandemic. They put in an extra 18% of their time outside normal hours. But the increase in effort did not lead to any measurable rise in output.

The interesting thing is why this happened. The academics were able to analyse how much time the employees spent in “collaboration hours”, defined as various types of meetings, and how much time they had as “focus hours”, uninterrupted by calls or emails, where they could concentrate on their tasks.

Despite working longer hours, the employees had less focus time than before the pandemic. Instead, all their extra time was taken up by meetings. this is famously described in Bartleby’s law: 80% of the time of 80% of the people in meetings is wasted. This study certainly offers evidence for the proposition.

But there is certainly a raw deal for the employees in that they did not get paid extra for the overtime but this was offset a little by not needing to pay to commute.  The study was not really conclusive since it only covered work up until Aug 2020 and the staff might have adapted better to navigating Zoom meetings by now.

Dealing with Management

office work

So what will employees face after remote working ends and they return to a normal office environment?  This is a topic that the Wall St Journal was looking at this week and a very interesting perspective it is too.

They point out that the employees who are returning to their old desks are not the same employees that their bosses remember. Here’s why:

  1.  They have spent over a year adjusting to a radically different rhythm—both in terms of work and their personal lives. They have shifted their working hours and learned to manage their own tasks without oversight.
  2.  They may place more value on their family time or personal priorities and perhaps been forever changed by a loss or health concerns.
  3. Many have come to expect more control over how, when and where their work gets done, and to have greater autonomy relative to their managers and organizations. Their employees may be able to handle more of the decisions for themselves.
  4.  All these changes add up for managers, who will need to think differently about how to mentor and coach their team members effectively,

According to this article, it is easier to mentally wipe the slate clean and think about returning staff as new hires.   It is probably best to treat the first few months as a probationary period to assess how staff have developed or changed over the WFH period and what tactics management need to adapt to it.

The key takeaway is Employees aren’t likely to give up their new independence easily, but managers can find ways to accommodate it.

Opinion

 

So how do we view the post COVID landscape from our vantage point on Regent Street?  We are certain that many of the WFH brigade will not wish got return to a controlled office work environment.  They have experienced the relative freedom of a year without commutes and they have become very familiar with remote technology.

It is likely that some will negotiate with their companies to become freelance or independent contractors.  Doing much the same work but with a different tax status and, of course, less security.  Security is a moot point since many employees have realised their function can be outsourced to Mumbai or Capetown anyway.

For many, it will be the chance to grab their dream and start-up on their own with a guaranteed cash flow from their company.  That can be a springboard to acquiring other clients depending on any legal contracts entered into.

When they do grab the road to freedom it is also a perfect time to came and discuss your new support structure with the team here at Hold Everything. We can tailor-make the package of Office services you really need with spending money on extraneous items such as HR support that was fine with a large company but not needed when you are a lean, agile one-man band.

We will help you keep your office work from crowding into your home life by providing you with a first-class London business address on Regent Street with your mail sent efficiently to your home office.  We will also let you turn off the business phone calls for a while and answer them for you in a professional manner.  That way you can set the office hours that are right for you.

We can advise you on company registration and provide you with an official registered office address.  We can even manage your incoming mail for you if you are travelling, opening, checking and scanning things that matter and emailing them on to you.

When you combine all these support services along with our integrated low-cost courier service you will see why Hold Everything can let you make that step from office work to home business with a minimum of fuss.