To say the last year has been like no other would be something of an understatement. Particularly for the business sector. As Covid-19 swept around the globe, workplaces have undergone many changes. The unexpected leap into remote working has caused organisations to question next steps and whether they’re ready for their staff to return to physical offices. And with it becoming increasingly likely that employees will return from 21 June, the pressure is on.
So how should companies navigate staff returning to work?
Firstly, to keep using digital tools that were available before lockdown life.
Before lockdowns began, cloud-based computing allowed workers to collaborate with teams across networks, sharing documents and files regardless of where they were and without disruption to their working week. It was a smart digital solution that opened the door to more remote-working options.
At the height of the pandemic, when 6/10 UK adult workers were working from home, these tools became a lifeline. For many companies, having employees work from home was the only way of surviving. Now sanctions are lifting, there are mixed feelings about heading back into the office full time. For some, remote working has added hours back into their day and increased productivity. For others, remote working has literally been a pain in the neck, due to hours working in homes not properly set up for work. Some have felt extremely isolated without the real life contact in their workplaces. The pandemic has had differing effects on employees so bringing staff back in with familiar digital tools can help ease the process.
Did you know: In 2010, 884,000 UK adults were reported to be working from home for their main job. By January 2020, that number reached 1.54 million. Post pandemic these numbers are expected to grow considerably.
What else should be considered?
Having an Open Mind
People’s experiences have been so diverse over this time, that understanding one size will definitely not fit all when it comes to returning to work is crucial. Data collected by Prolific show a huge disparity in people’s preferences in relation to working from home vs from an office. With this in mind, organisations are looking to provide space for those who might struggle to return to full time office life. For some employees there is a high level of anxiety about returning to work spaces so knowing there are measures and supports in place could be encouraging and ease the transition. Some companies have even considered implementing a weekly ‘wobble room’ so that staff can offload and join together to support each other.
One solution to the dilemma faced by many might be to offer employees a combination approach, asking people to be in the office whilst giving the option of also working from home. Companies such as Lloyds Banking, Virgin Media and Deutsche Bank are all looking to head in this direction. Hybrid working combines the benefits of flexible working whilst keeping the benefits of spending time together in the workplace. Research from the Boston Consulting Group found that 86% of UK workers claimed to have benefited from remote working. Highlighting that many were less distracted and had a better work-life balance.
It has been noticed that with the increase of hybrid solutions there is also an increasing need for virtual solutions to help enhance the remote working experience. Organisations such as PwC have become front runners in exploring this potential.
To date, digital solutions have helped the majority navigate work throughout the pandemic. But we recognise that implementing virtual tools in the workplace could help staff return on another level. Or at least develop teams once they have settled back into their new working arrangements. Ever wished you and your teams could move meetings to an island paradise? Or thought of revolutionising mundane staff training? Now you can!
Virtual technology such as 360 photography and 360 video help users get closer to the physical ways that we communicate and collaborate. Such immersive and interactive tools can bridge the noticeable gap when working remotely and digitally. Virtual options can also help maintain the energy and satisfaction of teams, relieve loneliness, preserve work-life balance and cope with technological restrictions.
There are many ways virtual tools can positively impact your employees working conditions so when thinking about staff returning to work, why not consider the role of virtual tools.
For more information on the impact of virtual tools within the workplace take a look at our latest report. Highlighting the virtual revolution we see before us and how things could look in the future.