21st May 2020

Let’s think beyond “work from home”​ post-Covid


Julian Hucker

Lets think beyond covid

Right now, business leaders are planning for a future, post-Covid. The savvy ones are asking questions about what they have learned and how they can harness this unique situation.

Wherever you’re at, I think everyone is agreed that the world won’t be quite the same again. My take is that we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-imagine the workplace: let’s not waste it.

One aspect that concerns me is the assumption that returning to work means everyone works from home from now on. It rather misses the point.

Work from home has become a mantra, with companies like Twitter telling staff they can “work from home forever”.

I can definitely see the advantages of working from home. Zero commute, a better connection with your family life, (theoretically) fewer meetings, plus enhanced productivity. In fact, a tech firm looking at millions of keystrokes deduced that working from home led to a 47% increase in productivity (oh and Tuesday is the most productive day, in case you’re curious).

But that’s all easy for me to say, having the advantages of my own house with plenty of living space (although my kids may disagree there).

That’s really not the case for everyone though. At Zing we have people who are having to create make-shift offices on sofas or move back to their parents. People’s circumstances are all different.

And – maybe because I’m a social animal – I really miss face-to-face time with the fellow Zingers.

We’re asking the wrong question about work location

Where the opportunity lies is not thinking about “work from home vs work in an office”, but “let’s just work flexibility”.

I’m also worried that the emphasis on working from home isn’t always about helping employees, but an undercover way of cutting office rent costs.

We’ve helped customers shift their entire call centre operations out of a fixed office and many are seeing the upside from a productivity and employee flexibility perspective. But as we look to the future, the conversation we’re having with them is, “it doesn’t matter where you work”.

All businesses could be using this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to completely re-evaluate how and where everyone works.

I’ve heard that many coworking spaces are at risk due to the effects of Coronavirus. But why do they need to be designed for freelancers or solopreneurs? They could be used as call centre or office hotspots, with all the advantages around flexible business models, even surge pricing.

They could also be re-engineered to work within the parameters of social distancing, which may well change to and fro in months, even years, ahead. I’ve seen a number of start-ups, such as Tharsus, who are behind Bump, or LSE spin-out Crowdless, innovating around social distancing, for example.

Tharsus Bump 980x551

Image credit: Tharsus.co.uk

Being agnostic about location, with a mixture of home, office and other locations is entirely possible with existing technology. Thinking about working at different times of the day, scheduling more intelligently, offering better support and intuitive team or customer communications are also all on the table.

It starts with a conversation…

We have the opportunity to be really creative in our thinking about what working life looks like.

However, it’s equally important to ensure that we include everyone in the conversation.

I would hate to think that the reason people are more productive right now is that they’re worried about losing their jobs.

We already know that in our market, serving businesses with calls centres, agents are more productive when they are happy and fulfilled in their jobs. And key aspects to this are feeling in control of what they’re doing and having access to all the right information to do their jobs properly.

Technology really can deliver on that promise already, if used properly. But we can go further than that to tap into our imagination and create truly flexible, considerate and productive workplaces. That’s what should guide our thinking as we make plans for a post-Covid future.

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