Home working… or Back to the Future
Working from home has become the ‘new normal’ but how could it affect your business in the short and longer term?
First a prescient comment from Sir John Timson, Chairman of UK group, Timsons. ”There is no doubt in my mind that companies that continue to meet face to face will enjoy a competitive advantage. Personal contact and body language play an important part in creating ideas and decision making – on a different note, it is quite unnerving when I hear that some executives, recruited in the past six months, have never been in the same room as any other colleagues.”
So let’s use this as a starting point and initiate a straw poll from employees to managers and company owners in all sorts of business areas to gain some sort of an insight. Surprise, surprise, we have had as many views as the number of people that I contacted, but the common thread is very similar to what Sir John has to say along with many other commentators.
Let’s take someone I know who works in a marketing business. Working from home was a novelty at first but unease has slowly crept into the situation. Yes, there is a small dedicated area to work in, the on-line meetings are delivering for the customers but the spark has faded and there is a hope that a new office-based horizon can be glimpsed over the kitchen table or out of the spare bedroom window (for most, this is the reality of home working) of the past camaraderie and creative juice found at the office.
Away from the creative world and on to the IT sector, there is a more practical viewpoint and an acceptance that home working is the future with more benefits than challenges. Here comes a ‘but’. Another contact, this time in IT has a steady recruitment requirement. Protocols are written to mitigate not meeting candidates face to face. As time goes on there is a building unease about this process. The important human receptors are not designed to work at a distance to gain those important nuances. Trouble in-the-making for the future perhaps?
People Buy From People
These two viewpoints are the recurring factor in researching the thoughts of working from home from all sorts of business sectors. But the Owens viewpoint is from the yachting, luxury travel and hospitality sector. ‘People Buy From People’ is a very accurate maxim if your business is in a world of customer facing services or selling a large yacht! So we can do a lot from home but we must add the important ‘magic dust’ at the office or meeting with customers for that very important ‘face-time’ dynamic.
How healthy is it working from home?. A favourite editorial topic in all the colour supplements, editorials and the blogosphere is how to keep obesity at bay and keep those ‘steps’ in the healthy column. Fitbits and Apple watches have been flying off the shelves to help home workers focus attention on keeping moving even in the kitchen office or out ‘working’ with the dog. So with a bit of home-office activity now and then plus having a good idea on how we can keep fitter, should help develop the best ‘new normal’ work environment for our health and sanity.
With businesses investing heavily in infrastructure such as desk layouts, acrylic screens, foot traffic separation, sanitisers, office density reduction and improved ventilation, plus staff diligence including the two metre separation and face masks, the office is probably one the safest places to be at the moment.
So in my view and many others, there has to be a working compromise, a hybrid way forward, if we are really going to get the world economies (and ours) sparking on all cylinders and not becoming zoom robots, we need to interact, find that lost mojo, sprinkle that magic dust and spark up a fresh business mix!
Roy Roberts October 2020