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Does virtual working actually benefit businesses?

Virtual working or virtually working?

2020 has seen the world change around us in many ways we thought would not be possible, including the vast number of office staff working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In April 2020, statistics released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics showed 49.2% of adults in employment were working from home, as many organisations and their employees turn to this mode of working as the only way to maintain operations during the pandemic.

Whilst many business leaders may have been nervous earlier in the year about productivity falling due to employees working from home, a lot of businesses have had no choice but to implement and accept this huge change to ways of working.

One of the concerns over remote working centres largely on difficulties co-workers have sharing knowledge and experience with each other. So much of how businesses operate is through face to face contact, networking and knowledge sharing between internal teams. For many companies, including ours, this kind of sharing is valuable in the growth and development of teams. It promotes best practice and enables those who are struggling to seek help, and perhaps most importantly, develops the wonderful sense of community which drew many of us to our companies in the first place.

As many business leaders have come to realize, it can be incredibly difficult to recognize, motivate and connect with employees working from home. It is difficult to detect when remote colleagues might be available to answer questions, catch up or reach out for help. Organizations of all sizes have quickly embraced new technologies to deliver core business during the pandemic, and whilst substitution of technology to physical contact may not suit everyone, it has been imperative to do as much as possible to maintain business productivity during this unknown period.
Increasing the number of workers currently working from home has required more leaders and managers to develop cultures based on trust, moving away from the traditional 9-5 and recognising that the once well-defined lines between work and home life have been made fuzzy for many people. All of this has meant that managers need to become more comfortable with judging people’s performance based on their outputs and not how much time they spend in the formal workplace, which can be an unnatural way of working for some people.

If the pandemic has taught us one thing though, it’s that we need to be flexible in our managerial mindset in order to change with the times, but do we trust our employees to maintain the same levels of productivity working from home as they do when office based?