Firstly, what is the definition of normal? It’s a word riddled with complexities and the pandemic has only facilitated in people distancing further away from using the textbook definition. ‘Normal’ to some workers and businesses prior to the global pandemic may have been five day working weeks, a daily commute and slotting in family and social commitments around the work clock.
Now 18 months on, we find ourselves in a slightly advanced and somewhat enlightened world. Remote working has been thrust upon a vast majority of office workers and even larger scale businesses who weren’t keen on the idea at first have adapted to this newer way of working.
In the early days of the mass switch to remote working, social media lit up with memes and jokes about cats stretching across your keyboard or loved ones making too much noise in the background; even what we wore to virtual meetings was unwittingly up for discussion on social media.
But for some remote workers, this move has meant giving up some of their social norms. A catch-up at their familiar coffee machine with a colleague was no more and some workers yearned for the interaction and body language only detectable across a meeting room table.
All understandable, but for many it has been difficult to overlook and escape the vast array of benefits remote working has afforded them, for example financial savings, reduced travel, increased time with loved ones, better sleep even.
With some offices now offering flexible/hybrid models of remote working and the news that the UK Government is pressing ahead with a consultation on plans to give everyone the right to request flexible working from the first day in a job, it looks like remote working is here to stay.
When we consider our career moves, often the deciding factor is salary. Deduct the daily expense of fuelling your car, buying a train pass or parking space from your salary and you can start to see a considerable dent in your outgoings. On average, workers save around £241 a month by not going into the office and a recent study by the Telegraph estimated this could enable savers to potentially retire 5 years earlier! The offset of this is reduced demand for city cafés and lunch stops which has seen a significant footfall of daily business.
The other consideration is our surroundings, how much space we have to focus on work is more important than ever. The housing market boom has been fiercely competitive which contrasts with the economic uncertainty many households have faced since the beginning of the pandemic. More and more people are seeking out larger homes and even garden outhouses to double up as extra office space.
The recent IPCC climate report confirmed we are ‘Code red’ for human driven global heating. A stark and sobering reminder of the ever-growing threat we face to our planet. In 2020, emissions from surface transport (cars, buses etc) were down by 36% worldwide. Oversea trips led to a reduction of plane travel emissions by a staggering 60%.
Unfortunately, there are some aspects of irreversible damage already by the effects of global warming but it does beg the question; does our reduction in commuting/using large office spaces cause a degree of positive offloading?
It may not be the case; increased temperatures and more people working from home in the long-term is likely to drastically increase the demand to cool our homes, putting strain on the UK’s electricity system. It is estimated that up to 10 per cent of all UK electricity is used for cooling and air conditioning presently, a figure which is likely to increase between 3-5°C for the average regional summer by 2080.
Four day week
There’s long been whispering of companies in the UK considering switching over to a four-day week working model, taking inspiration from other countries such as Iceland and Switzerland. Scotland is set to trial a four-day week for the same pay. But it’s not without its challenges and hesitations. There is the restriction of certain industries being able to implement this structure, there is also the cap on overtime and people left unable to carry out extra hours when wanting to. It is however of benefit to the planet, employee satisfaction and increased productivity.
Commonly we are now seeing companies implement hybrid remote working models whereby staff can come into the office one or two days a week and work from home for the remainder. It’s offering people choice, flexibility, and the option to have physical presence in the office again.
Health and accessibility benefits
It’s undeniable that more sleep and less stress from a daily commute could be beneficial for our health. But there are other factors we are considering now such as increasing physical activity whilst not leaving the house. Standing desks, cycling desks, and taking breaks is part of the ‘new normal’ home office set-up.
We cannot ignore the inclusion and opportunity that this has granted disabled people in being able to work remotely and have access to more opportunities. This inclusion has been vital and uplifting for chronically ill and disabled people. They have been emerged in an environment that finally lets them in and is open for them too. Understandably it was worrying when restrictions began to end that some of these adaptations may disappear but now, we’ve seen it can be done, we must not lose sight of the importance of inclusion and enabling others to do their best work.
The NHS lists support on their website for how to take care of our physical health whilst working remotely. It is important to recognise the huge adjustment for many to return to the outside world and mix with other people again. We are no longer the same world pre-pandemic, there’s a shift in boundaries and social etiquette which has seen the handshake become an elbow bump and a hug become reserved only for those living under our own roof. It is now normal to wear a mask, be cautious when greeting others and to carry hand sanitiser or expect to use it when entering a shop or establishment. Many people have battled anxiety, depression or exacerbated mental health issues as a result of the pandemic. It is important we don’t forget to check in on our mental health and give ourselves time to readjust back to ‘normal’ at our own pace.
As we acclimatise to newer ways of working, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on what enables you to get the most efficiency out of remote working.
We would love to hear from you if you are looking for assistance or specialised support. We have been set up since pre-covid times, providing support for smaller businesses to large commercial companies with offices worldwide. We accomodate different timezones, languages and cover a multitude of tasks under the administrative banner.
Contact us to see what services we can provide to help your business run smoother allowing you to concentrate on what you do best.