Working from Home – The future?
Working from home is going to be the new normal.
That’s a phrase I’m hearing a lot at the moment, almost to the point of it being a mantra. The popular press is fuelling this.
We’ve given notice on our office – it’s an unnecessary expense.
I’ve heard that few times too.
It seems that Covid-19 has sent us working from home crazy. As some have said, the pandemic was the catalyst that made a long overdue change happen, the push we needed to move our businesses into the 21st century.
Yet, in spite of this, we’ve just moved our office out of the home. This week we moved RedFez into its own premises and we don’t regret it one bit.
Why is this? Why are we moving against the tide?
Well for us it is an important part in our journey as business owners. It represents the success of our business over the last two and a half years. We couldn’t have considered doing this when we started out, with no clients and no income. But now we have established our business and our brand, and have clients who are using us week in week out, there is a certain amount of stability that enables us to make this step.
For us it is important that the business has an identity separate and apart from our ourselves. Having its own office helps to cement that and provides a space that belongs to RedFez. It needs this to continue growing. It’s no longer, and perhaps never was, a lifestyle business.
But even accounting for that there are other reasons why we believe having an office is so important. These apply to all businesses – not just to us – and I would suggest that these factors should all be considered before any business decides to switch its staff to working from home permanently.
Many business are on-premise centric when it comes to their IT. If you use a Windows Server and Active Directory you are one of those businesses. This solution is from a time when remote working was unheard of. To get these to work remotely usually involves a VPN or remote desktop. Both have security implications and require employees to go through a series of steps before they can connect. These aren’t always simple and don’t always work.
Unless you are a cloud based business, to get people working from home you’ve had to tag on some extra things to get it to work and it had to be done at short notice. But these aren’t likely to be suitable long term.
If you want people working from home you need solutions that put remote working at the heart of what they do. Have you switched your systems over to provide this? Most on-premise businesses will not have done so as it requires a large investment in terms of time and money.
So, my question is, have you got the time and money to completely upend your IT architecture to make it work in the cloud?
IT Devices & Security
A lot of employers have provided staff with laptops to work from home, which is great. That is the way to do it. But did you lock those devices down? How easy is it for an employee to infect the pc (and your network) with something from their less secure home network, or perhaps from a usb stick?
And if you have put restrictions in place, how are you enforcing them?
If you are allowing them to use their own devices, unless you already had a robust system for managing this you could end up in an even greater world of pain. What data is being kept on personal devices? How can you be sure it is secure? And how do you delete it if an employee leaves?
And whether you provide a device or staff use their own, I’ve already mentioned that their home networks are less secure. The chances of malware infecting your systems is greater – as are the chances of a phishing attack or data compromise.
Your employee’s home internet connection is also likely to be slower and less stable too. Can they connect to what they need to, when they need to, for as long as they need to?
Suitable working space
This is a big factor, and I think many companies are going to get bitten very badly on this front.
As an employer you have certain obligations towards your staff, especially when it comes to providing a suitable and safe working environment. You provide a suitable desk, chair, equipment, washroom facilities etc. because it is right to do so and because you have to. By law.
However, your responsibilities do not end just because your employee is working from home.
Do they still have a suitable desk? Do they have a chair that is rated for the 8 hours they need to work? Is the workspace safe to use with adequate space and lighting?
Do you actually know what your employees home workspace looks like?
Working from home is fine if you have a suitable space. Perhaps a spare room or office where you can set up a proper desk and chair. But what if you don’t have the space? You end up using a laptop on a kitchen table, or perched on the edge of a bed, or sat on the sofa, all of which are recipes for Repetitive Strain Injury. Which you will be responsible for.
Working from home also disproportionately disadvantages young people who are less likely to have their own place or a space big enough to accommodate a proper home office.
I wonder if those companies who have gotten rid of their offices have fully considered this?
Now there may be some roles where it doesn’t matter. If they’re not predominately desk based and they are only using a laptop in short bursts for up to an hour or two then it isn’t so much of an issue. But these staff were often remote working anyway!
Mental Health and Wellbeing
Zoom et al have been great during lockdown. In fact you could say they have saved business. They have allowed us to stay in touch without needing to go into the office.
We can have that business meeting online, we can do our networking, we can conduct an appraisal, make a sales pitch, offer support.
But lets not think that it is superior in every respect.
I like doing my networking online as it takes less time out of my day. It’s more efficient and its broadened our reach. But it isn’t the same. The dynamic is different. There’s no handshakes, hugs, eating together. I don’t feel like I have really met someone.
Meeting in person is a fundamental human need and videoconferencing cannot replace that.
Working from home is lonely, even with Zoom, and we need to ensure that social contact remains, even if it has to be at a distance for the time being.
And do you know what? After 2 ½ years working from home, I’ve had enough! It was good to start off with but it’s gotten old. The novelty has worn off.
Sure, the convenience is good. The commute is second to none! But those things aren’t enough for me anymore.
When you work from home, home becomes your workspace. This makes it harder to put work down and to walk away from it. Our work-life balance suffers and our mental and physical health suffer as a result. Some people can cope, others can’t. And the danger is by forcing people to work from home, you could be harming those extremely valuable and productive employees who can’t. That is not fair and it will ultimately cost you in sick pay and staff turnover.
So does that mean I think working from home is bad? Not at all.
Does it mean I think we should all go back to the office? Again, no.
What I do not believe is that working from home will become the new normal. Some people have suggested that those who work from home are more productive, but others have said the opposite!
Some love it, some hate it.
What WILL become the new normal is a more flexible approach to working. Working from home will be ideal for some people and providing that there is a suitable space, the job can be done from home and the IT systems can securely support it the I’m all for it.
But I don’t think most companies are anywhere close to that yet. And many that are working from home do want to get back into the workplace and many more will feel that way eventually.
Once the Covid sticking plasters fall off it will be interesting to see who is still standing, having taken the time to properly review and plan for the future.
We believe our future is bright with our new found identity. And we hope yours is too, whether that’s at home, or in an office!
Want to work from home securely?
If you are working from home, or you have staff that are, then we can help to make sure your IT systems will work for you, without compromising security. Contact us now for a no obligation chat