Monday, 16 November 2020

Now 71% of People Want to Work from Home: What Are the New WFH Rules? – PART 1

A recent survey found that 71% of people want to continue working from home after the pandemic. If this is going to happen, organisations of all kinds will need to rethink the way they work long-term.

A recent survey found that 71% of people want to continue working from home after the pandemic. If this is going to happen, organisations of all kinds will need to rethink the way they work long-term.

In part one of our two-part blog we look at the first three new working from home rules.

Very few of us started 2020 with the expectation that we would be spending so much time at home… and, although it sometimes may not feel like it, those of that who can work from home are the lucky ones.

There are huge armies of frontline staff who have been toiling throughout the pandemic to keep the shops stocked, the tills ringing and essential services running… and a growing number of people for whom furlough has ended and who no longer have a job to return to.

At the same time, the capability to allow staff to work from home where possible has kept many services and businesses running throughout this pandemic. Despite all the interruptions, dodgy broadband connections, difficulty in finding a quiet place to work and all the other little inconveniences that go along with working from home, the truth is that many of us have woken up to just how productive and convenient it can be.

There is great enthusiasm for working from home

A recent survey found that 71% of people would like to continue to work from home. Given this enthusiasm, it looks like things won’t be going back to how they were, even after the pandemic is behind us.

There are advantages for employers too: reduced overheads in office space, the possibility of recruiting from a much wider talent pool, and a much more responsive workforce, able to manage peaks and troughs in demand with greater agility.

However, there are challenges. Employees need to learn to work in a completely different environment. Collaboration must happen at a distance. Managers have to learn how to manage distributed teams. And IT staff have to make it all work seamlessly. Meeting all of these challenges will require a new approach: so, what should the new rules for working from home be?

The new rules for working from home

Let’s consider some of the implications of the new WFH normal – and how to manage them.

#1. Productivity can be a problem

Productivity has been a business challenge since time immemorial. Even before the pandemic, the UK was suffering from a productivity crisis(1). Although analysts have argued for a long time(2) that, with the right tools, remote working can be more productive, it remains to be seen how the experience of this year will affect the UK’s productivity picture. However, in the businesses and organisations we work with, we have noticed a huge uptick in the deployment and use of key productivity tools.

While some organisations had a small deployment of Microsoft Teams which was mostly used by a small internal cadre of early adopters, in March this year it suddenly became an essential workplace app.

The sudden and widespread use of Microsoft Teams has opened up many people’s eyes to the productivity tools that exist within the Microsoft 365 platform. Collaboration on shared documents, video conferencing, the use of dynamic whiteboards during virtual meetings, and the Slack-like functionality of the Teams messenger tools became commonplace overnight.

The realisation of the advantages of having all these tools on a single platform emerged more slowly but has been inexorable. Document management, the ability to lockdown privacy and sharing rights, the searchability – it’s all enhanced the way we work and the productivity of our days. Instead of searching through file systems, working on out-of-date-versions, wondering what the latest progression with has been with a particular job, all the information we need is suddenly at our fingertips.

This isn’t something that is going to go away when lockdown ends, or when the pandemic is behind us. These tools will be an essential part of our working lives moving forwards (by the way: if you haven’t already deployed them, reach out to our team today. We can help you with a smooth transition).

#2. Measuring output – not time spent at a desk

While the physical distance between us has been metaphorically closed by productivity tools like Microsoft Teams, it can’t change the fact that we are in different locations now.

Managers who used to view time and attendance as a crucial part of performance face the biggest rethink of all. It’s simply not possible to monitor how long someone is sitting behind a desk anymore. This calls for a new approach to monitoring performance.

Managers and staff alike need to start thinking about productivity in terms of output. If they don’t have it already, managers will need oversight of exactly who is delivering what and when. This has long been a challenge when managing remote teams.

A HBR study conducted in April and May of this year(3) found that about 40% of managers expressed low self-confidence in their ability to manage workers remotely. Yet the report authors also found that better quality management will improve remote workers’ wellbeing and performance.

The researchers said that workers want to feel trusted. Micromanagement is not an effective way to get the best out of people. It’s stressful for both the micromanagers and the people on the receiving end. Instead, the analysts argue, organisations should train managers in how to devolve job autonomy and in how to manage by results.

Overall, this brings benefits to us all: time is freed up for managers, staff feel more trusted and that makes them more productive, and the organisation is measuring the right things.

#3. Self-management requires support

Self-management goes hand-in-hand with the new approach to measuring performance. Employees have to learn how to become self-starters and how to maintain motivation throughout their working day. We have to stop our own selves from sneaking off to watch TV and lunchtime and not returning to work for a couple of hours!

On the other hand, some of the major benefits of working from home is that we have a lot more freedom to plan and structure our own working days. If we need to be available to collect a parcel or attend a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day, suddenly it’s all a lot easier.

Workers need to be realistic about how much these activities eat into their working day and allocate the time to make up the work. This is a lot easier to achieve when people know they are being measured on results!

However, there is a balance to be struck here too. Workers need to be able to draw the boundaries between their work and home lives and switch off at the end of the day. Managers need to be on their guard to spot people who are struggling with this and offer them the support they need to achieve a sustainable work-life balance.


Look out for part two of this blog on our website next week and discover the next 3 new WFH rules!

If you’d like to talk about how Grant McGregor can support you in working through any of the issues raised in this article, please reach out to our team.

Find out more about Microsoft Teams by getting our guide below:

Find out more about Microsoft Teams