Will working from home be the ‘new norm’?

By Professor Ken Eason

Many people have been discovering they can work from home and many companies have discovered they can run their business with their staff working from home. There is now much speculation that we will continue to work in this way when the lockdown is over. There are many advantages: savings on office costs, no long commutes, less pollution in the atmosphere, more time with the family, reduced rush hours and so on. But working like this for a few months under emergency conditions is one thing, working like it on a permanent basis is quite another. Before we just assume this will be the new normal there are many things to consider:

What could we lose by just being a ‘virtual organisation’?

What did all those face-to-face opportunities contribute that we might now be losing?

Can people work effectively with one another if they only ever see them in Zoom meetings?

How suitable is the home environment of staff to permanent home working. Working on the kitchen table might be alright for a while but its not quite an office workstation

How will we manage staff when we never see them?

Every organisation will have to find its own answers to these questions and many more. We will look at the issues in more detail in other blogs. But everybody needs to set up a mechanism for evolving their own ‘home working’ practice. It will need some of the features of an action research approach. It needs an ‘action’ element to plan how it is all going to work. And it will need a ‘research’ element to assess on a regular basis how it is going. There will no doubt be ‘hard data’ to look at: are we sustaining productivity levels? But there will also be ‘soft data’ to gather – how are people coping, what problems are they encountering and so on? Whatever task force is set up to do this work, it needs to ensure that the voice of the new home workers comes through loud and clear.  The Bayswater Institute have been researching these and related issues for many years and have a small skilled team available to support organisations, small and large, grappling with these issues as they strive to most effectively rebuild their business into the future.  Examples of some of these issues are covered in the next few blogs.