Equus Blog

Remote working is here to stay. Here’s how to cope.

Companies are reorganizing themselves to accommodate alternative and remote working arrangements, as it becomes clear many of the changes ushered in by the pandemic are here to stay.

Research by IT services company, Atlas Cloud, suggests that half of staff in the UK would look for a new job if their employer did not allow flexible working after lockdown. Spotify has also recently announced that employees will be able to choose whether they work mostly at home or in the office – and have greater choice over their geographic location.

Many U.S. companies are pushing workplace returns to September or beyond. Cloud software company Salesforce plans to offer more employee flexibility once the pandemic subsides and will require only a small workforce to come into the office for four or five days per week.

Accelerating Change

A steady trend towards remote working and virtual offices has been brewing for years. However, this was accelerated in 2020, and lockdowns forced many businesses to immediately adopt new technologies, such as video conferencing services, that previously would have required long due diligence or risk assessments.

A recent US study, co-authored by Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University, surveyed 22,500 Americans to investigate whether remote working would stick after COVID-19. The evidence finds that the number of workdays supplied from home will likely be 22% when lockdowns ease, versus 5% pre-pandemic. That’s an increase in days of 440%!

Workplace change has been accelerated by the pandemic, but there are certainly other factors at play. Organizations understand the cost advantage to having a smaller office property portfolio, and many workers enjoy the flexibility. Automation is changing the shape of industries and the shape of many people’s working lives.

A movement towards blended workforces and the idea of ‘liquid’ workers will persuade employers and employees that the future will be characterized by mixed employment. People will explore a variety of stints in freelance, independent, contingent and temporary roles, as well as permanent positions. Organizations will be recruiting from this agile and flexible pool. We are moving into a new era of work.

Adapting to Change

HR functions and global mobility managers have been at the frontline of change since the beginning of the pandemic. Many are seeing an overwhelming volume of requests for alternative work arrangements – changes to hours or location – which might include second homes, family homes, location outside the state, or even abroad. New HR solutions are required to meet the administrative challenge and also mitigate a new range of tax, audit and immigration risks.

We are still in the relatively early stages of this workplace transformation. Such arrangements may be termed ‘alternative’ only for now. If hybrid and home working become the standard way of doing things, they will simply become ‘work arrangements’ – a part of the employer–employee contract that needs to be agreed.

Embracing Change

Beyond all this, a raft of further questions about this new world of work, many of them big questions, will need to be answered.

  • How can companies maintain a strong culture when workers are not regularly physically together?
  • What are the new skills and requirements of managers and leaders in such a world?
  • How should we pay people  who are moving to locations where the cost of living is lower?
  • How do we measure and monitor remote workers, performance manage them, engage and motivate them, look out for their wellbeing, their mental health and career development?

We’ll look at these and other questions in forthcoming blogs.

For now, find out how HR and mobility managers struggling to deal with the rise in requests for alternative work arrangement could benefit from our Remote Work solution.

Relevant links:

Staff will quit if denied flexible working – The Times
Spotify staff will be able to choose ‘work mode’ – The Verge
Office re-opening plans are being delayed – WSJ
Permanent remote work for most Salesforce staff – SFGate
Home workers retreat to their sheds – BBC