Should Businesses Say Farewell to Office Working?

business closing office

The COVID-19 pandemic has given businesses around the world a lot to consider. As the virus has upended the lives and livelihoods of many, there are few sectors that have been immune to its effects. And naturally, many business leaders have been thinking long and hard about how they can best adapt to the circumstances and weather the storm.

One such adaptation to the current public health crisis has seen employees across the globe swapping their desks for their kitchen tables, as companies have migrated their process to suit working from home.

Indeed, although the virus has prompted something of a working home revolution, it seems like the introduction of flexible working practices has been on the cards for quite some time now. With many employees keen to gain more autonomy over when and where they work, lockdown measures have simply accelerated this shift.

To this end, a recent survey has revealed that the lockdown period saw just under half (49%) of the country’s workforce working from home.

Although the Government started to encourage employees back into the office in June, mounting concerns about the threat of a second wave of the coronavirus forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take a U-turn on this advice. On the 22nd September, once again, the Government urged workers to return to the safety of their homes, where possible.

As it becomes overwhelmingly clear that the virus isn’t going away any time soon, many business leaders will be wondering how they can best ensure the safety of their organisation in the coming months. For some, this might involve making the shift to home working more permanent.

Reconsidering office space

One factor employers might think about when considering a more permanent move to home working is the potential for cutting costs. It goes without saying that the cost of renting office space can often be quite steep, and given staff are unlikely to be heading back to their desks any time soon, this might seem like an easy choice to make.

Indeed, when business leaders consider how much money their organisation usually spends on maintaining, cleaning and kitting out their office space, there is clearly potential to make great savings.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a recent study revealed that 70% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK have managed to make savings of up to £840 per month through the switch to remote working over the lockdown period. Consequently, 45% of SMEs believe are now considering making remote working a permanent practice.

Ensuring that staff are suited to long-term flexible working

However, there are far more considerations that employers should give careful thought before implementing a plan to work from home on a long-term basis.

For workers who are used to a simple setup, perhaps using a laptop to complete their daily tasks, the switch to remote working will have been seamless. But for others who rely on multiple screens or have to access hordes of sensitive data on a daily basis, the transition might have been a bit more difficult.

Indeed, issues surrounding cyber security with remote working are becoming increasingly problematic for organisations, with nearly half (48%) of businesses failing to implement the appropriate infrastructures to protect their data. Whilst such software can be costly, the price of failing to invest in cybersecurity is far greater. Indeed, data breaches cost UK companies an estimated £2.48 million per instance.

Of course, additional costs including IT support, desks, and office chairs (etc.) must also be factored into budgets. Whilst these expenditures may seem trivial, businesses cannot afford to overlook such elements if they are considering the permanent move to remote working.

Safeguarding staff welfare

Although financial concerns might be a prime topic for business leaders, organisations shouldn’t dismiss the complications that a more permanent shift to home working might entail.

For some employees, working home will be a welcome change to the daily grind. But for others who prefer engaging in a collaborative office environment, this might be more difficult.

Indeed, a recent survey has revealed that over one in five (22%) employees who are now working from home struggle when it comes to ‘switching off’ and putting work to bed at the end of the day. A further 19% are feeling lonely while working from home, with 17% also missing interactions with their colleagues.

While keeping a team of remote workers in touch is no mean feat, managers would do well to organise regular team socials, and touch base with their staff often to mitigate this and ensure that they are coping well with the changes. This way, employees can voice any concerns about work, and these can be addressed – hopefully with little stress or concern.

All in all, businesses leaders will all see the future for their organisation’s working practices differently, and a permanent shift to home working won’t be right for all.

For some, making the decision to allow staff to work from home for a couple of days a week might become a regular fixture, while for others, returning to the office when it is safe to do so might be a more appropriate solution.

However, the most important thing for businesses to do going forward is to assess all of the options carefully. This will give organisations the best chance of safeguarding their business and maintaining employee wellness.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Nic Redfern, Finance Director of KnowYourMoney.co.uk an independent financial comparison website, launched in 2004. Run by a dedicated team, Know Your Money’s goal is to provide clear, accurate and transparent comparisons for a wide range of financial products, such as business loans, mortgages and car insurance.

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