Remote working – is this the new norm for 2021?

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Remote Working Future

2020 was a year filled with unprecedented challenges, but the hope is that this will be a year of recovery, progress and positive changes. One question is to what extent will remote working continue to impact our working lives? The pandemic has caused many businesses to transform and embrace other ways of working. Whether these changes to how we work are temporary or become lasting measures will likely become clear throughout this year. While some employers are adopting new ways of working, other businesses hope to return quickly to a more traditional way of working, as before the pandemic hit.

At the beginning of last year, a small minority of employees were working from home. During 2020, the number of remote workers continued to grow significantly. More importantly, numerous studies echoed similar findings in terms of individuals’ responses to working from home. Data suggested that most remote workers would be happy to continue this way, or at least, adopt a hybrid working pattern.

Despite some uncertainties concerning working out of the office, many people have found they are more than capable of working remotely. New technology has also proven critical in supporting this transition and enabling employees to complete their work, and maintain a similar level of productivity to as before, in some cases, even higher.

The pandemic has increased both our acceptance and dependence on new technology. At the beginning of 2020, most people’s understanding of video conferencing or remote working tools was relatively limited. Today, many of us rely on a range of these services to continue and complete our daily tasks. We may still be exploring the capabilities of new technology, but last year has shown how quickly we can adapt and learn new skills. Acquiring the best technology and improving our working conditions have become top priorities for many employees. 

The benefits of remote and hybrid working

How will things continue to pan out this year? Many industry leaders believe the transformation and changes implemented in 2020 will become the norm. Working from home may gradually become non-mandatory this year, but there is a belief that going to the office will not necessarily be an obligation. The sensible train of thought on this shift is to move towards a hybrid working model, enabling an increase in a flexible working arrangement that allows employees and employers to benefit from the best of remote and office working conditions.

While remote working has proven successful, there are certain factors from working in an office that are hard to replicate. A hybrid working model can incorporate features of the office environment, such as social interaction and team creativity that may be difficult to replicate remotely.

While there is anticipation that 2021 will be very different to 2020, the consensus is that remote working will likely remain a dominant part of our working lives for some time still. There is hope that the expansion of the vaccine programmes will enable restrictions to ease, but it doesn’t necessarily mean working conditions will return to exactly as they were before. 

Applying a hybrid style of working as the pandemic does begin to subside could offer many advantages. Most importantly, we will be ready and equipped with more resources and knowledge to work remotely. Many businesses have focused their attention towards adopting a long term hybrid working style and are developing teams to support their employees. Over this year, remote working will become even more familiar and accepted, as we continue to learn how to manage our time more effectively and appreciate how to balance our personal and professional lives.

Furthermore, adopting a balance between working from home and the office could enable many people to relocate to more affordable or appealing locations and save money on regular commutes to the office.

2021 could be the time when all of the things we embraced and adopted during the last year become widely accepted. Employers will have to decide whether to take a proactive approach and learn from the recent challenges faced or take a reactive approach and return to a more traditional way of working, as before the pandemic. Businesses will need to carefully consider employee expectations and ensure they listen to their needs, whether supporting remote working or offering a hybrid working model. These changes, combined with a greater understanding of employee needs, will be critical for businesses to continue attracting and retaining the best talent for the future.

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