Trial by Fire: How COVID-19 could change the way we work for good

Among the challenging elements of coronavirus-related self-isolation and lockdowns, there is one that may have a permanent positive effect: the flexible working revolution.

Commuting can be a horrible business. It can be time-consuming, environmentally destructive, boring, stressful and expensive. It can also put restrictions on the precious time we have to spend with family, exercise, and relax.

Many workers are better set up than ever before to work from home, and COVID-19 is now putting this to the test. So why has it taken this long for so many businesses to try it out?

Fear or flexibility?

Perhaps the answer lies in our learned behaviour. We’re used to the ritual of going to the office. We kid ourselves that the business – or at least our team – might fall apart if we take a day to work from home.

Or perhaps it’s because some of us haven’t had the time or enthusiasm to learn how to use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other collaborative tools that can facilitate working from home.

Alternatively it could be a trust issue. Managers want to be sure their teams are working, and not watching Countdown, and the easiest way to do that is to be within close physical proximity of colleagues. (This isn’t without solutions though – regular catch-ups and performance reviews can help to ensure that work is getting done remotely.)

There are other compelling reasons to continue being office-based too: many people are genuinely needed to be on hand; some people favour the change of scene; others may not have the necessary resources at home, and businesses may not be equipped to handle overhead costs and other implications.

BUT… What if the current global emergency is actually challenging some of these behaviours, preconceptions and business norms in a way that could (eventually) result in happier and more productive employees?

Learning to work from home together

Lockdowns have put undesirable restrictions on many business operations – and the devastating impacts cannot be ignored. Yet if we want to identify something positive to take from this situation (which we should) it’s that this crisis has offered an unparalleled learning curve to work-forces in effective flexible working. Trial by fire, as it were.

Webcams are being switched on. Teams are discovering the collaborative opportunities offered by Office 365, G-Suite and other applications. Individuals are finding out how to structure to their working days (often around childcare) and learning how they can work most effectively from home.

The result? A swathe of individuals and businesses who are discovering that it can be done. And whenever the worst of this global health challenge is over, and staff are welcomed back to offices – we might just find that many of them are more comfortable with living the flexible working dream. And we might also find workplaces making it possible.

Are your Internal Communications working flexibly?

If your business is seeing people working from home for the first time, your internal communications methods and structures should reflect this change. If you’d like to find out how I can work with you on employee communication strategy, get in touch here.

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