Remote working: Is Covid-19 the catalyst for changing work practices?
The coronavirus (COVID-19) has, and continues to have, an unprecedented effect on society, the economy and business throughout the world. The first confirmed case of the virus was reported from Wuhan in China late in 2019. Since then it has spread to over 100 countries worldwide. Italy is in lockdown. Ireland is now in partial lockdown as the government attempts to contain the virus. COVID-19 has become front and central in our daily lives, with live media updates on its spread and decisions on how to contain it.
What does it mean for business?
With this rapidly evolving situation, businesses have had to make necessary changes. In order to keep their employees safe and to limit the spread of the disease, remote working is now a necessity and not a luxury. Up to this point, companies considered it as a nice to have with the aim of attracting and retaining staff. Many multi-national firms currently offer remote working as an option with virtual teams and meetings commonplace. Small and medium-sized businesses are slowly catching up. Until now.
Technology has played a huge role in ensuring employees are able to work from home. According to a recent survey by 8×8 at the end of February, 44% of consumers with full-time jobs have already seen coronavirus impact the way they do business, 55% have cancelled travel plans and are having fewer in-person meetings. 40% are increasing their use of video conferencing. It is up to employers to ensure that the necessary applications and systems are in place for all employees.
The health benefits for individuals and broader society are becoming obvious amid this pandemic. Not only can the daily commute on public transport a stressful and negative experience at peak times, we know a crowded DART, LUAS or bus is a breeding ground for viruses and disease. Working from home provides a better quality of life by reducing the weekly commute time of employees – an improved work-life balance. Research (Forbes) shows that happier employees are more productive. That is the most obvious business benefit.
Of course, reduced commuting would positively impact our environment. If all employees worked from home a number of days per week, carbon emissions would be significantly reduced.
The workair story
We at workair are an example of this new way of working. From the outset, a key element of our overall strategy was to ‘eat our own dogfood’. We wanted to embrace this new world and the opportunity it brings to enable us to work differently. All our employees work remotely from various locations including Dublin, Waterford, Meath, and Galway in Ireland, and Manchester and London in the UK.
Working this way involved a conscious effort from both management and employee to change how we worked from traditional office-based to a virtual environment. We quickly settled on best practice for us. 8×8’s virtual office allows our teams to meet and communicate with our customers and each other every day. We also have a physical office or business hub (a meeting room and a couple of hot desks) and we meet face-to-face once a month or as needed. This works well as it gives us the chance to discuss our business and plans in more detail while strengthening our team relationships.
Making the Change
As with all things, business and business practices gradually evolve until an innovative piece of technology or an unprecedented event gives us the opportunity to do things differently. COVID-19 has demonstrated how important it is for businesses to ensure they are ready to meet challenges such as these. The technology is here. The time is now.
For more information, contact us.