Employers are learning that remote working is actually good for productivity, prompting a rethink of traditional workspaces and premises, writes Ricoh’s Chas Moloney.
The world as we know it has changed forever. So too has the workplace.
The measures implemented in response to the Covid-19 crisis left many businesses scrambling to put the tools and processes in place that would enable staff to work from home – from providing laptops and securing access to work files, to implementing remote working collaboration tools and digitising information. There has been little room for error and for quite a few organisations, it was unchartered territory.
“Perhaps the crisis will shed light on a new, less regimented approach where central city HQs will be swapped for a combination of working from home, satellite offices and hotdesking hubs across Ireland”
Never before had they considered whether their entire workforce had the means to effectively do their jobs and communicate with colleagues and customers remotely. Nor had they been faced with the challenge of ensuring business continuity and maintaining service delivery with offices closed, people at home and movement severely restricted.
Moreover, employees have been faced with increased pressure not only on their professional lives but also their personal lives. Daily routines have been turned upside-down and the supports of family, friends and, for many, schools or childcare facilities have been taken away.
While exceptional, the circumstances that Irish workers and businesses are facing have highlighted a need which has existed for some time. It is something that companies should have already been ready for and facilitating – flexibility.
Contrary to popular belief, remote working actually helps employees to be more productive. Just because people are working from home does not mean that their output will suffer. In fact, it has been found to increase efficiency with employees able to work how, when and where they want. In turn, this can benefit the company too, often enhancing customer service, instilling trust, and boosting motivation levels.
“While the current workstyle approach has been borne out of necessity and during a time of great adversity, it has taught businesses a vital lesson”
For people, it enables them to organise the workday as they see fit, be that starting earlier in the morning to enjoy more personal time in the evening or splitting the day up to accommodate for what used to be the school run but perhaps is now the 2km daily walk. Not only does this help to achieve a better work/life balance, it gives people greater control over their routine and allows them to work smarter.
Of course, as many companies have recently discovered, it has to be done right. It is not simply a case of providing people with the tools they need to work remotely and successfully communicate. Businesses also need to ensure that staff have an adequate work environment equipped with sufficient space and light and provide them with seamless and secure access to work files and systems.
The bigger picture
On a long-term, much larger scale, enabling more flexible workstyles can also help to reimagine office spaces and transform working practices. Hopefully, as the recovery begins, organisations will look at their set-up and decide whether their workforces need to flock back to their desks and offices to work from 9 to 5, five days a week. Can this be the catalyst that removes the dreaded rush hour and congestion on our roads and public transport? Let’s hope so.
Perhaps the crisis will shed light on a new, less regimented approach where central city headquarters will be swapped for a combination of working from home, satellite offices and hotdesking hubs across Ireland. After all, it presents a chance to rethink the concept of the workplace as we know it. Rigidity has long been a risk to company success, but it has taken a global pandemic for business leaders to fully realise it.
Meanwhile, flexibility has and will continue to be crucial as we look to recover from this crisis. Businesses of all sizes must continue to facilitate remote working going forward as people will need flexibility and, more so now than ever, productivity will be key – particularly for SMBs which have a smaller pool of people on which to rely and quite often depend on a personal level of service to their client base.
As the Covid-19 crisis unfolds, businesses must review and adapt the way they work at every stage of the process, which is guaranteed to be uncertain and open to change. Inevitably, they will be faced with many more questions in the near future.
Who needs to return to work and when? Can our strategy continue to facilitate remote working on a long-term basis for certain team members? For those who do want or need to return to the office environment, what procedures should be put in place? How are people coping and what can we do support them?
While the current workstyle approach has been borne out of necessity and during a time of great adversity, it has taught businesses a vital lesson. It has also offered up a unique opportunity for them to reimagine the way they work and how they support people, both inside and outside of their organisation.
Chas Moloney is director for Ricoh Ireland and UK. He has played a fundamental role in restructuring and growing Ricoh’s sales and marketing division, bringing the company’s managed document services propositions to market and focusing heavily on strong customer-supplier relationships. Under his stewardship, the Ricoh Ireland and UK sales and marketing teams have built a reputation for providing premium solutions and services that are relevant to customers’ business situations, and that address real business needs.
Published: 6 May, 2020