Category Archives: Work from Home

Over half of the UK is happy to work from home indefinitely

More than half of the UK is happy to work from home indefinitely, according to a new survey of 1,000 office workers.

The researchers set out to identify how the nation is feeling about working from home once more, as, in accordance with the revised government guidance, many UK workers are packing up their desks and heading back home again.

The research was carried out by Moneypenny, the outsourced communication provider – here’s what they found:

How many want to return to work?

  • Over half (54%) of UK office workers are happy to continue working from home for as long as necessary.
  • 30% stated they are happy to continue working from home, but do however miss the office.

So, how many workers have returned already, according to researchers?

  • After the relaxing of the original COVID-19 measures, 70% of the UK workforce headed back to the office, 47% of those on a full-time basis.
  • Furthermore, 47% returned on a part-time basis, splitting their time between working from home and the office. 6% of workers were also introduced to staggered hours.

West Midlands’ office workers (41%) were the most likely to go back to the office full time. On the other hand, those in Yorkshire (20%), were least likely to go back.

The return to work from home

Now, with the COVID-19 infection rate rising, workers have been advised to work from home wherever possible.

  • 37% of those originally returned to the office, have now reverted to working from home once more.

What are the regional Patterns?

When looking at the regional data, 57% of office workers in the South East have now returned to working from home. Yorkshire saw the lowest occurrence of this activity with only 26% back to work from home – but an additional 42% of Yorkshire workers stated they were awaiting preparations allowing them to return to working from home.

On the whole, only 21% of workers have stated they will continue to work in the office.

Those in the North East (30%) and East Midlands (31%) revealed that they too were staying put in the office environment.

What do employees say they like about work from home?

With over half of the UK stating they are happy to continue to work from home, the survey shows why working from home is the more preferable option for many – a whopping 59% of respondents say they enjoy not spending time and money on the commute.

Secondly, being able to dress in casual clothes was another popular aspect of not working in an office (52%). 26% stated that not having to wear make-up was another advantage of working from home.

The freedom to decide when breaks were taken was another favourable choice with respondents, 42% stated this was the best aspect of working from home.

Personal factors such as more time to spend with a partner or children (31%) or more time spent with pets (26%) were also popular choices amongst respondents.

What do employees miss about the office?

There are some elements of the office that workers say they have missed.

39% stated that they miss their colleagues. Interestingly, 4% miss their ‘work husband/wife’, however, the vast majority (90%) said they were in contact with them socially at least once a month. A further 9% miss their office chair. 7% miss their desk and other office environment aspects.

10% of UK office workers found working from home to be difficult, 14% confessed to being less productive without an “office routine”.

What can employers learn from ‘work from home’?

The study also explored what employees would like to see incorporated into the office after their work from home experience – and it seems, pets are the winner – 22% of workers stated upon return to the office, they would take their dog with them, similarly, 17% shared that they would take their cat.

35% of respondents said they would like to see their office adopt a comfortable dress code – with 11% saying they would like to continue wearing their pyjamas and 12% slippers!

In addition, 20% of office workers say they will miss their gardens and 11% of workers said they would love to take their view with them upon return to the office!

However, 19% said they would not take anything back to the office from their working from home routine.

The full report can be found here: https://www.moneypenny.com/uk/resources/blog/remote-working-survey/

 

Expert warns working from home in new ‘Winter Lockdowns’ will create new challenges for employers and employees

With daylight hours decreasing and lockdown increasing across the UK, employee engagement experts, Inpulse, are warning employers to communicate with their staff about the risks of not building physical and emotional resilience into their daily lives.

In a recent survey by Inpulse, 38% of employees said they are struggling with their physical health. The survey also showed that self-awareness and resilience is an issue for employees with 42% concerned about them. Being self-aware of strengths and limitations helps resilience and the ability to have empathy for others.

Indeed, Inpulse warns that younger employees living in shared properties are likely to be most hard hit by the winter challenges. Research by the London School of Economics and affordable housing developer Pocket Living found that young Londoners living in shared properties have on average 9.3 square metres of personal space to themselves during lockdown and 37 per cent of Londoners in house shares have been working and sleeping in their bedroom. Indeed, according to the Department of Work and Pensions, over 25% of private single renters are still sharing accommodation by the age of 35.  

Matt Stephens, CEO and founder of Inpulse, said: “Helping employees to be resilient emotionally and physically couldn’t be more crucial as winter approaches and lockdowns increase.

“Not only are people more likely to feel the intensity of the pandemic as dark nights and clouds draw in, but more will simply find it difficult and less appealing to get the physical activity they need. Even a simple walk for fresh air and new perspective isn’t so likely to happen in cold and wet weather. Younger people are particularly at risk, if you consider that many are working from bedrooms, in crowded, potentially overpriced homes that are shared with people they may not know well.”

Research from Aon in its Rising Resilient report which surveyed employers and employees across Europe found that just 15% of employees are resilient within organisations that don’t offer health and wellbeing initiatives, 29% are resilient if a partial health and wellbeing initiative is offered and 45% of employees are resilient if they work for an employer that offers a broad health and wellbeing programme.

Stephens added, “The danger to employees not getting employer support is that they can become burnt out, lose focus and ultimately struggle with productivity and undertaking their role.

Employer advice

“Employers can help by educating, facilitating and evaluating.

“They can educate employees about the importance of physical activity and impact it has on their mental or emotional wellbeing. They can also facilitate opportunities for their teams such as physical challenges of 10k steps a day, group virtual yoga classes, local walks or catching up with each other on calls while walking.

“It’s important too, that employers evaluate the situation as every company will have unique pressures. By measuring their peoples’ wellbeing and physical health through regular pulse surveys and team conversations they are one step closer to understanding the support their people may need.

“On top of this, employers who understand their peoples’ self-awareness are able to discuss issues in relevant ways. For example, if someone has low self-awareness, they’ll need softer and more empathetic communications, whereas those with high self-awareness can take stronger feedback and messages. Understanding this helps employers to communicate more precisely – and be heard.”

No Office, No Future?

Over a third of younger office workers forced to work from home feel remote, unfocused and less committed to their employers, posing a real threat to businesses in the medium and long term, new research from office design experts Oktra reveals.

“Our research shows that the vast majority of workers (84%) are itching to get back to the office, at least for some of the week, (just 16% want to work from home full time) with the younger staff, the leaders of the future, the most unhappy.

“Over a third (36%) of workers aged 16-34 have lost enthusiasm for their company, posing a real threat to the future of their businesses. We call this ominous combination of empty offices and remote working isolation “The Vacancy Effect”, says Craig Smith, Chief Development Officer at Oktra.

Of 1,500 people surveyed, who used to work in an office full time but have been working at home for the last six months, the experience has changed the way that 71% of them feel about their employer; 85% have struggled with working from home.

Younger workers are most affected: 59% struggle to stay motivated, ground down by a home set-up that is not as inspiring or as professional as the office (67%), missing out on career development (50%) and on the face-to-face contact which 86% regard as important for building strong working relationships.

They are lonely too, with 34% missing friends from work. With “the people” being rated the most attractive aspect of their company by 56% of respondents, it is perhaps not surprising that isolation is leading to a loss of commitment and team spirit.

It all points to a generation of potential future leaders who are feeling increasingly less committed to their employers, their work culture and their professional future.

Business managers are acutely aware of this threat and many, who have invested significantly in making their offices Covid-safe, are desperate to keep staff on site.

Comments from business leaders

Paul Richardson, Executive Chairman of Gymshark (UK-based billion pound company started in 2012, average age of staff under 30): “We see the risk to our business in the long term and we will encourage our staff to attend the office whenever possible.”

Oktra designed the HQ office space for Gymshark and the company recognises a significant link between its contemporary office buildings and the motivation, creativity and productivity of its staff. “It’s about building a strong culture and loyalty. When we moved to our HQ building there was a sea change in the culture, lifting collaboration between functions, up and down the hierarchy ladder.”

Gymshark reckons the pandemic has “fast tracked us about three years in terms of remote working, and it will be a more blended work and life in the future” with the organisation looking towards having around 60% of its staff in the office at any one time.

“We can never imagine not having an office” summarised Tracey Gleig, Executive and office Manager at video game company Square Enix. “The culture is an important attraction of the company and we are an organisation that needs to collaborate. The people who are struggling the most with this situation are our younger staff, many of whom live in shared flats with little or no private space. They need the social aspects of a workplace and miss the inclusive culture.”

Lee Wilcox, Managing Director of social media publishing group Electric House goes further: “we have already seen an impact on our business. It depends upon a strong collaborative and accepting culture to operate effectively. Three months into lockdown we could see the culture changing and productivity starting to decline.”

Wilcox is particularly concerned about the mental health of his predominantly young team. “We talk about keeping them safe and we have made our workplace as safe as we possibly can, following all Government guidelines. But it’s not just Coronavirus that affects people’s heath. Isolation, lack of social contact and the inability to do the job properly are all having an effect too.

“We are a technology-based business, but togetherness is one of our core values and you can’t create that over a screen. It’s much harder to work remotely over time and we will start to see breaking points. It’s definitely a threat to our business and I would never want to operate 100% remotely.”

Barry Horner, CEO of Financial Planning consultancy Paradigm Norton agrees. “Remote working is having a negative impact on our business, particularly around the speed of execution. It has not adversely affected our clients, but we have definitely experienced delays with a number of big internal projects.”

“We are starting to spot the signs that being at home is just not working for some of our team. We really want to support government guidelines but at the same time we have an obligation to the team and we can see that they are starting to struggle. That’s bad for our staff and ultimately bad for our business.”

All four organisations interviewed were looking to develop a long-term strategy, accepting that Covid-19 is likely to be circulating in the population for many months at least. All called on the Government to be clearer and more consistent in their advice to businesses, and all are planning to keep their offices open for at least a skeleton staff.

“It’s a really delicate balance for businesses at the moment” continues Craig Smith at Oktra. “Of course no-one is suggesting that all staff should be compelled to return to their offices right now, but we are clearly seeing that in the longer term the physical office environment plays a key role in the recruitment, retention and performance of staff and consequently of the long term performance of many companies.”

Where the UK is headed post-COVID-19 for technology in the workplace

Windsor Telecom decided to take a look into the UK’s current working styles and trends to discover what tools and technologies are needed to bridge the generational gaps in the workplace.

Pete Tomlinson, CEO of Windsor Telecom said:
“It’s vital that employers address the fundamental changes we’re seeing across all generations. Lockdown has forced a conversation that needed to be had higher up the agenda because many employees are struggling to use the technology needed day to day, and employers are searching for straightforward and reliable solutions that work for all.”

Our Data

Windsor Telecom analysed their customer call data from 2010, 2019 and Jan – July 2020, which amounts to over 73.9 million calls.
A sample size of 7,385 companies across the UK and Ireland shows that:

As the UK went into lockdown in April 2020, 44% less business calls were made compared to April 2019
This continues in May 2020 with 40% less business calls compared to May 2019.
In total, 28% less business calls are made between March and July 2020 compared to the same period in 2019
(Period compared – March – July 2019 vs March – July 2020)

General Public Quotes

We spoke to people across the generations to discover what their biggest technology frustrations in lockdown have been.

Stella Ralfinis, Age 73.
“What greatly frustrated me during lockdown was my lack of technical skills which mostly has to do with my age – 73. My main work is teaching live seminars which were all cancelled and won’t start up again until next Spring. I bravely attempted to teach a few seminars online and my confidence was hugely dented when the screen blanked out or lighting was so poor that those online couldn’t see me clearly. I am now doing my best in a world where I was left behind because I never foresaw what was coming.”
Christian Azolan, Age 37.
“We were all promised that the networks and broadband providers had the bandwidth and capacity to cope, clearly they didn’t account for my three iPads, iPhones, MacBook’s and a host of other devices like my Apple and Amazon TV that all need to be connected all the time! Then there’s WhatsApp, FaceTime and Zoom. Why does everyone want to see everyone? What’s wrong with just talking on the phone with no video? It’s ok to just speak on audio only.”
Lindsey Evans, Age 31.
“The biggest issue we have had during lockdown is having to interview people via Zoom (for a podcast) and having their audio cut in and out. There’s no way to salvage it and makes it a waste of everyone’s time. An issue we never had to deal with when we were sitting with people face to face.”
Dymohe Mensink, Age 22.
“As a travel influencer and blogger with over 72k Instagram followers [Dymabroad] I constantly have to be connected to the internet to manage my online business. Since the Wi-Fi connection in my house is very bad, it was very inconvenient to work from home. Frequently, the Wi-Fi suddenly stops working. Also, it costs lots of time when there is a power outage (which happens quite a lot at my home). Normally, I work a lot at other places, such as the library or a Starbucks, but because of the lockdown I couldn’t go there. Therefore, I lost a lot of time due to these technical issues.”

Multi-generational Working

For many, the future of working is virtual. Companies need to invest in becoming more adaptable, focused on providing technologies that are straightforward to use and the training required for every generation to be able to use them with ease. This means rather than opting between technology tools or training, providing both.
Many technology providers are adapting to be able to suit all five generations. The adoption curve has now been turned on its head. This is amplified when new generations enter the workplace.
Mass adoption of home working has brought technology pain points and the issues surrounding connectivity and communication to the forefront of people’s minds.
With the user experience and adoption becoming far greater priorities for every technology provider, companies should make sure that they don’t compromise on these when looking for the right solution for their business.
We have devised a list of areas to consider to ensure the best efficiency at work.

Training

A team that is aware of all the technology at their disposal, and that are confident using it are likely to be more productive and collaborative. They can also play a supporting role with team members who may be less confident using certain technologies.

Video Conferencing

Demand for video conferencing, whether it be standalone tools like Zoom or more integrated unified comms solutions like Microsoft Teams, has surged since lockdown. In fact, business-focused mobile app downloads reached 62 million during the week of March 14-21, the highest number ever seen.
While some employees are experiencing so-called ‘Zoom fatigue’, the key is to get the right balance of video and phone calls. Research suggests that the energy needed for video calls is so much more than in person so plan your meetings with that in mind to help maintain a happy, motivated workforce.
A workforce consumer survey from Gartner revealed that employees spent an average time of 11.7 hours a week in meetings. In fact, 9% of respondents spent more than 20 hours of their working week in meetings.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging apps like Slack and Skype, or new unified comms tools like Microsoft Teams, mean that the team can be in contact with each other throughout the day, without needing to pick up the phone. However, all have the capability for video and audio calls if needed. You can send files with ease and quickly ask any burning question rather than waiting for an email reply.

VoIP Calls

VoIP cloud phone systems provide businesses with an easy way to answer calls on-the-go without being restricted to one device. The call handling features make managing calls in and out of your business responsive and straightforward and integrate with unified comms solutions

Cloud Based Storage

Cloud-based tools like Microsoft 365, Google Drive, SharePoint and Dropbox allow your team to share and collaborate in real time, from any location.

Connectivity

As our case studies show you can’t work effectively and use technology like the above without a reliable connection. Without that your employees are going to struggle to be productive and frustrations will rise
In August 2020 the government reached its gigabit broadband rollout milestone, with half a million premises with access to gigabit technology. But there still fundamental improvements needed to get everyone connected and working as seamlessly as possible.

There are various options to choose from when it comes to improved connectivity, ranging from solutions like business broadband perfect for those needing a robust connection when working from home, to leased line DIA and SD-WAN for offices, businesses and people back in the office.

Nicola Riley: The Future Workplace: A perspective

Nicola Riley, Health & Wellbeing Consultant Unum, shares her thoughts on the future workplace

In his book ‘The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working’ published in 2010, Tony Schwartz describes the absurdity of the way we ‘currently’ work. Our culture, he argued, is failing to address our four basic needs: emotional, physical, mental and spiritual. In his view, the modern workplace didn’t suit the way that our brains and bodies function best.

Skip 10 years and our current ‘normal’ is looking radically different. It may have seemed unfathomable back in 2010 (or even six months ago) to imagine the seismic shift in the way a lot of us currently work. But COVID-19, with all its threat and challenges, represents a real opportunity to reimagine how we work.

Logic says that working remotely enables us to flex our day, match the task to our focus and energy. To no longer be constrained by a rigid schedule. However, pre-COVID, requests for flexible or remote working were met with scepticism, maybe even a sprinkling of mistrust.

But 2020’s experiment with homeworking has proved largely successful. Research from the CIPD found that three quarters of employers reported improved work-life balance amongst staff, better employee collaboration (43%), and improved focus (38%).

Clearly there have also been challenges too – particularly supporting the mental wellbeing of staff at a distance. The CIPD say that 47% of employers reported a decline in the mental wellbeing of their employees during lockdown. But, as the Government announces new restrictions to our working and personal lives, businesses should now be able to draw on their lockdown experience to gauge how well remote working has performed and where it needs adapting to best serve their team in the uncertain months to come.

Here’s how lockdown has shown businesses how to navigate typical blocks to remote working.

 

1. Connection / visibility:

Needing to physically see each other. Technology is the solution here. With the widespread uptake of platforms like Teams, we’ve enabled ourselves to stay connected with our work and colleagues. It’s also brought greater insight at times into who we are as individuals outside of work – something which is helping to strengthen our connection, engagement and performance.

 

2. Productivity:

The concern is that without someone watching, you won’t be as productive. However, flip this on its head and you’ve got less distraction, a greater focus and even greater need to demonstrate what you have been doing with your time. It’s vital to think about productivity in terms of performance and this doesn’t always equate to hours spent at a desk. The 2019 IWG Global Workplace Survey found that 85% of over 15,000 global businesses (across 100 nations) confirmed that greater location flexibility led to an increase in productivity.

 

3. Fairness:

How to fairly treat an influx of requests for flexible/ remote working. Will the floodgates open? I think not. Homeworking suits many, but not all. A happier balance is about matching the task to where you feel you will be able to best achieve it. For managers, it’s about having a robust flexible working policy in place that’s clearly laid out and transparent. COVID-19 has enabled us to see who performs well remotely. All of this is helpful when considering flexible working requests. A US survey of 7,000 employees by Flex jobs found 80% said they would be more loyal to their employer if they had flexible work options.

 

4. Wellbeing:

Loneliness, a reduced work-life balance and low mood are higher in remote workers – 21% report loneliness (Buffer 2018, survey of 1,900 global remote workers). However, 77% of employees say that remote working has improved their overall health and wellbeing. There’s a watch out here for those of us with responsibility for health and wellbeing. We need to ensure support is in place, but most importantly, that the culture and ways of working acknowledge the need to take breaks, the structuring of the day (however that best suits both employer and employee) and a clearly defined work and home life.

Workers who have control over their schedule report finding time to exercise more, eat better and have higher morale and a better outlook in general (American Psychological Association).

There is also concern that sickness absences will increase, and yet go hidden and under the radar. This is where the role of the line manager is vital. Knowing your team and being connected, offering a listening ear and being watchful for any change in behaviour.

 

“The new normal”

So now is the time to think about what our new normal will look like. We are gaining real insight into how we all work best and for each employee that will be very different.

As we brace ourselves for another potential six months of restrictions, we should use this as a time of great experiment and reflect on the changes that we wish to implement going forward. Remote working isn’t a one size fits all, but for some it really does enable them to perform at their best. 61% of companies globally currently allow staff to have some form of a remote working policy. Germany being the highest at 80%, the Netherlands 75%, USA 69%, UK 68% and Japan at 32% (IWG Global Workplace Survey 2019).

I can’t help but reflect on how very timely this all is for Generation Z for whom digital connectivity is a superpower. Now that we are meeting online and digitally connecting with friends and family, it looks like the traditional workplace is about to catch up and better serve all our needs.

 

Most productive lighting for WFH office workers

  • A report by Wren Kitchens has revealed how different room lighting can affect work life
  • Warm lighting has been found to be the biggest impact on people’s positivity 
  • If you’re trying to create a romantic setting, white lighting with dimmer features have been found to be the most alluring 
  • Spotlights have been found to drive the highest productivity for people working from home

The way in which you light up a room has a major bearing on our emotions, as well as our productivity, according to a new report.

The report by Wren Kitchens has revealed that certain types of light fittings are key in getting our spaces right for working from home as we’re asked to stop our return to the office.

Using a range of images with different lighting, the study questioned respondents on how different set ups can vary how people feel.

So if you want you’re wanting to create a romantic setup, or if you’re just looking to create a space which allows you to relax and chill, check out the lighting styles that are most suited to helping you achieve a romantic, productive or relaxed vibe.

Spotlights shine for functionality and productivity

Nearly a third of people (31%) say that spotlights are the best lighting options for home working…

(But warm lighting is better to de-stress after working from home so it’s good to ensure you finish work so warm lighting benefits with 30 percent of respondents saying it can help them de-stress.)

Lighten the load with warm lighting options

A quarter of the UK says that the right lighting in their home can make a difference and improve their well being, with 30 percent of respondents saying it can help them de-stress.

The report revealed that warm lighting had an array of positive impacts on people’s emotions and feelings.

Almost half (48%) of respondents said that warm lighting improved their mood, while 50 percent said they felt calmer and 52 per cent said it made them feel happy. More than two thirds (70%) said that the lighting made them feel warm while 65 percent said it was cosy and relaxed.

Along with the positive sentiment brought on by the lighting choices, the set up was the favourite for entertaining and hosting dinner parties, with a third of people selecting this arrangement and 30 percent say it is the most welcoming.

White and dimmer lighting; A Flicker of Romance

White lighting with dimming options was dubbed the most alluring with more than half (53%) of homeowners stating it to be the most romantic.

So, if you’re looking to create a romantic feeling or just looking to impress that special someone, white lighting with dimming options maybe the best option!

Spotlights shine for functionality and productivity

While a variety of lighting can be used for getting the mood right, the use of spotlights is the favoured option for those practical uses.

Forty-one per cent think that the spotlight lighting is the best option for cooking, while nearly a third (31%) say it is the best lighting for working at home.

It’s no surprise that the lighting is so highly thought of when getting down to work with nearly two thirds (65%) saying they think it’s the brightest, 47 per cent stating that it’s the most vibrant and 70 percent saying it’s the cleanest.

Commenting on the findings, Darren Watts, Creative Director at Wren Kitchens, stated:

“Lighting is often overlooked during the design stage of kitchens, however it’s an important aspect to incorporate right from the beginning. Always consider where the room gets natural light when making decisions. Good lighting can take a kitchen from functional to fantastic, as clever placement can make your kitchen look bigger and fiddly food preparation easier by illuminating the workspace.

The first step is to work out where you want lighting to illuminate space where you really need it – such as spotlights above your hobs and counters.

It’s then important to consider adding accent lighting for visual interest. This could be a statement ceiling light above your island or bold floor-lamps placed strategically around the room.”

Full information can be seen at https://www.wrenkitchens.com/blog/lighting-suit-mood/

Recreating Work as a Blend of Virtual and Physical Experiences

The ongoing global pandemic has put employee welfare under the microscope, as many businesses have had to embrace remote working as business as unusual. Companies have had to quickly spin up new digital workplaces where remote employees both have the right tools to communicate and collaborate, but also feel supported in order to maintain productivity.

A new report from Verizon Business, “Recreating Work as a Blend of Virtual and Physical Experiences,” examines the impact of the recent rise in remote working and discusses key areas business leaders should focus on as they help their organization adapt to new ways of working moving forward. The report, carried out in conjunction with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, is based on feedback from 1,080 global business leaders, and was conducted in May 2020.

“The global pandemic accelerated this move to a digital working environment and business leaders need to use the lessons of the present to future-ready their organizations,” comments Sampath Sowmyanarayan, President of Global Enterprise, Verizon Business. “Seeing how their network, security and employee collaboration systems have operated during the pandemic should provide the blueprint for the road ahead. By acting now, they can capture the needs of employees and customers and create alignment across the organization as they pivot toward the new normal.”

Successful experiences for future working

86 percent of the companies surveyed see the digital workplace co-existing with the physical workspace in the future, with 78 percent expecting to increase the amount of remote work conducted. This increase doesn’t mean everyone will work from home in the future. Rather, organizations will be able to pick and choose which types of work and which people will require a physical presence, and where the company can gain efficiencies and productivity with virtual work.

This new insight has resulted from successful experiences obtained during the initial period of the pandemic. Sixty-one percent of business leaders reported that the quality of remote work was on par as that conducted in the physical workplace. The benefits of remote working also shone through, with 52 percent experiencing improved collaboration; 57 percent seeing a boost in business agility and nearly half witnessing an increase in productivity (44 percent).

Many businesses benefited from the use of collaboration technologies to maintain productivity with videoconferencing topping the list (98 percent) with other tools such as file sharing (97 percent), instant messaging/chat (95 percent), other collaboration methods (e.g., Slack or Teams – 88 percent) and cloud-based collaboration (85 percent) all also being referenced. In addition, the use of online interactive training to keep employees engaged in their own personal development was key (85 percent).

Using technology to enable a difference

The report also highlights that businesses that have a digital workplace strategy are consistently more likely to see greater returns from their investments than those that don’t. For instance, 52 percent saw increased productivity versus only 40 percent of those without such a strategy. In order to achieve these results, businesses need to go beyond a mere work-at-home policy to define the purpose and goals of the program, the approach the organization will take, and how they will measure success. The use of technology is a key differentiator in this strategy.

The potential of 5G technology was seen as going beyond basic operational improvements to provide more transformative changes, with one fifth (20 percent) of respondents saying that it will enable them to do work they have never been able to do before. Twenty-eight percent believe it will enable new business models to be explored, adding more value to their business proposition. Forty-one percent of those surveyed expected 5G to become a reality for their own organization within two years, opening the door to applications that employ higher-quality/lower-latency video and augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR).

Not surprisingly, security was flagged as a potential barrier which may slow digital work momentum (35 percent). However, 86 percent of respondents stated the importance of addressing data security to get the most value from their digital investments in the future.

Three key focus areas for successful digital work

The report focuses on three key focus areas for maximizing digital work strategies in the future:

  • Working smarter: COVID-19 has forced widespread use of video and web conferencing. Smart organizations are increasing efficiency by integrating these with collaboration tools such as document sharing, white boarding, and annotation to let employees collaborate remotely in real-time, spend less time in meetings, and turn discussions into assignments.
  • Prioritizing simplicity and integration: To ensure a cohesive, productive digital work environment, tools should be easy to use and integrate seamlessly with other workplace productivity and collaboration tools. This provides employees with a single, app-like experience across the tools they use every day.
  • Keep security top of mind: Potential security gaps exist on employee PCs, devices, home networks, and apps, representing a growing threat with the shift to remote work. Enterprise-grade security enables businesses to identify and protect against fraud, and ensure that private calls and meetings remain private. Companies should also consider implementing end-user security awareness training, acceptable use policies that mitigate user exposure to threats, and new security policies for remote working such as two-factor authentication.

More insight available online

A replay of a recent webcast hosted by Abbie Lundberg, contributing editor to Harvard Business Review Analytic Services with Sampath Sowmyanarayan, President of Verizon Global Enterprise at Verizon Business and Melanie Frank, Vice President of PowerUp Technology at Capital One is available. The complete report, “Recreating Work as a Blend of Virtual and Physical Experiences”, and an executive summary may also be found online and contain valuable insights from leading companies such as CapitalOne, IBM GBS and Korn Ferry.

More information on how Verizon Business can help organizations expand their digital workplace tools and capabilities can be located here.

Workthere shares five easy ways to encourage collaboration while working apart

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way the world works, and with some UK workers beginning to return to the office, some anticipating a phased return in the coming weeks and others working at home for the foreseeable future, it can be difficult to connect the workforce together.

To support workers, flexible office specialist, Workthere, has shared five tips on how you can stay connected to your colleagues, both in and out of the office.

Communicate like you’re all in the office

Being able to speak to your colleagues throughout the day is an integral part of office life, and communicating as you normally would (as much as is possible) should be the first step in maintaining a sense of connection, whether you’re back in the office or working from home. You could also organise a mid-morning or mid-afternoon virtual tea break as a pick me up, or celebrate team members’ achievements over chat or video call.

Have at least one daily check-in with your team

When you have teams working across different locations, it’s vital that you have daily check-ins to ensure you all feel connected, even when apart. A simple way of doing this is to ensure you have a call at the same time each day, during which each person is given a speaking slot to share ideas and workloads. Although this has been implemented by many businesses when the workforce began to work from home, it’s important that this communication continues when some return to the office and some stay home, to make sure all colleagues feel connected to each other.

Plan virtual socials

Socials are an integral part of office life, particularly in shared workspaces where collaboration and socialisation are prominent, so it’s important to ensure social activities don’t fly under the radar as colleagues work apart. Virtual socials are a great way of connecting with colleagues wherever they’re based, so why not arrange one every two weeks or so? You could arrange a quiz over or after-work drinks over video call, a virtual games night or even a virtual escape room.

Encourage video calls

Rather than relying too heavily on instant messenger tools, consider phone calls and video calls more often. Face-to-face communication and voice interaction is incredibly important in maintaining relationships with colleagues while working apart, so make time to speak to them each day.

While it might be tempting to turn off your camera on a video call, leaving it on so you can interact with colleagues ‘face-to-face’ is important. As you can see your colleagues and pick up on visual cues and body language, video calls can make workflow easier by talking problems through as you would in the office, rather than having to wait for responses online and risk things being misinterpreted.

Start a club to learn something new

Encouraging you to be more social with your colleagues, starting a new club is a great idea to stay connected to them, both in and out of the office. You could start a book club or even a Netflix club, where each employee watches the same show, and then have a call or group chat where you can each discuss the show or book and what you thought of it. Another good idea is to start a virtual class, such as crafts, art or cooking. One employee who is skilled in a certain area can circulate a recipe or instruction sheet beforehand, then host a video call for everyone else to give it a go. This is a great way to learn more about your colleagues and pick up a new skill too, all the while helping colleagues feel connected to each other.

Cal Lee, Global Head of Workthere, comments: “Office workers are somewhat in limbo at the moment, as some prepare to return to the office while others remain at home. While at first glance this may seem like a challenge, this type of set up is relatively normal for those used to working in flexible office spaces or serviced offices. It can be difficult to stay connected to colleagues while some work from home and others resume normalcy in the office, but there are lessons and opportunities we can take from the flexible office market to create opportunities for better collaboration and connectivity for teams long-term.”

For more information, visit Workthere’s blog: https://www.workthere.com/en-gb/news-guides/help-guides/how-to-stay-connected-during-lockdown/

Corona-Tiredness! A Quarter Of Brits Confess To Sleeping On The Job Whilst Working From Home

Binging on Netflix (37%), sleeping on the job (25%) and household chores (24%) are what some Brits working from home are actually doing instead of their day job:

  • 1 in 10 Brits (9.6%) claim not to miss anything about the office.
  • More than a third of Brits are working a lot less in terms of hours now they’re working from home (37%)
  •  3% of Brits admitted “I am not working at all and getting away with it”
  • Brits hail team meetings (7%), celebrating colleagues’ birthdays (6%) and the office tea round (6%) the least missed things about going into work. 

With 8/10 Brits working from home over a third of those staff members confess they are getting away with working fewer hours then they should be according to a recent survey.

The survey, conducted by business card printing experts, instantprint, asked 1,000 British workers questions about their productivity and motivation levels. The results revealed that over a third of respondents are actually watching Netflix (37%) sleeping mid-shift (25%) and doing housework (24%) whilst on the clock with 3% of respondents claiming to be doing nothing and getting away with it.

Unsurprisingly. workers are not keen to return to the office either stating team meetings (7%), colleagues’ birthday celebrations (6%) and the obligatory tea rounds (5%) as the top three reasons they don’t miss being ‘on-site’.

With line managers nowhere to be seen, it would appear the temptation to procrastinate is too great for workers to resist. Here are the top ten things some of your employees could be getting up to while they should be hard at work:

  1. Watching Netflix
  2. Napping mid-shift
  3. Household chores
  4. Walking the dog
  5. Doing online surveys
  6. Going outside for a walk
  7. Catching up with friends and family
  8. Running errands (like popping to the shops)
  9. Cooking or baking
  10. Exercise videos

On keeping employees engaged with their workplace, Head of instantprint Jon Constantine-Smith said:

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up lots of challenges for businesses and for lots of people working from home is one of them. A majority of people are working harder than ever but it is clear that some are taking advantage of their employers by doing less than normal or in some cases nothing at all.

Despite our entire office team working remotely, we have managed our people in the same way. We have retained our previous KPIs and maintained nearly all reporting so we are monitoring staff performance closely. We have continued to set our team’s objectives and milestones and discussed them in daily check-ins to ensure everything in on track as well as giving us a forum to discuss challenges and how we can overcome them.”

Why home working is here to stay in the finance sector

In this article, Chris Stappard, Managing Director at Edward Reed Recruitment, takes a look at why working from home has a big part to play in the future of the finance industry.

Generally speaking, the finance sector has always been more traditional than other industries, with a preference for business dress and 9–5 days in the office. However, when the COVID-19 crisis hit the UK, the subsequent lockdown forced many firms to rapidly adapt their operation to allow for remote working across the entire company, changing the way business was done overnight.

Now, several months later, the Government has started to ease the lockdown conditions, with some businesses being allowed to reopen. But, when the time comes for the finance industry to return to something resembling normal, will we see a return to the model that was in place before? Honestly, I don’t think so. Here are a few reasons why home working is here to stay in the finance sector.

Access to a wider pool of talent

Under the traditional model of requiring staff to work within an office space, recruitment is usually restricted to candidates who are within commuting distance and those willing to relocate. However, by removing the limitations of a physical office and embracing remote working, suddenly the market opens up and gives you access to a worldwide talent pool. This will hugely benefit your organisation, because you won’t have to compromise in your search for an outstanding candidate, ensuring you have the right people in place to ensure your firm can continue to grow.

Employees now expect and enjoy remote working

While finance has always been resistant to remote working, the reality is that employees across all industries now view working from home as a perk they want in their jobs. A 2019 survey by Buffer found that almost all (99%) of people would prefer to be able to work from home some of the time. And, if anything, the recent lockdown has strengthened that opinion in the finance industry, with more than half of workers hoping they can continue remote working after it’s lifted (Hitachi).

Because working from home has become part of the new normal, it will be hard to make employees return to the older office model. What’s more, when the time comes to hire new staff, they will be most likely expecting some kind of remote working option, so if your business does not offer it, then you may well lose out on an exciting new candidate.

Productivity has been proven

If there was anything holding remote working back from becoming more widespread, it was the belief that there would be more distraction and lower productivity. However, the enforced lockdown has smashed any stigma attached to the arrangement, with thousands of finance companies able to continue working as usual after a short adjustment period.

You only need to look at Barclays, who are a huge financial institution that currently has 70,000 staff working remotely, to see that remote work is possible, even on the grandest scale. In fact, Jes Staley, the bank’s Chief Executive, went on record to say “the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past” (Reuters).

Office overheads are reduced

While there are plenty of operational advantages to switching to a remote working model, there are also financial benefits. If your business can thrive without the need for an office space, then there’s little point in paying for one. Though there will be initial set up costs, this switch could hugely reduce your overheads, with the likes of rent and upkeep removed from the equation.

Even if a large part of your daily operation is spent meeting clients, it’s important to remember that they will have been forced to work remotely too. This means that, not only will they likely be set up for video conferencing, but they will be used to the idea of it as well. So, if you’re worried about not being able to meet face to face, your clients probably won’t be expecting it of you. Even when it’s possible to have meetings once again, you could visit their office or host them in a hired venue.

I hope this article has been insightful in explaining why remote working will be here to stay in the financial sector and how it might be able to improve your business operation.