The future and how forced change could be the thing you never knew you needed

by Roger Longden | Apr 27, 2020

time icon 5 mins

Global interest in one subject is very rare. It feels like the COVID-19 pandemic will affect not only people living through the current situation, but also generations to come. Forced Change and events shape our history. Think of the Berlin Wall falling, or 9/11, and how these events impacted on the life you live today – accelerating economic and social changes that may have taken years to come to fruition.

This current worldwide pandemic is no different, and whilst the situation we are living through is very much about the here and now, what does the future look like post pandemic? 

Remote working the new norm 

Change is something we work with on the daily at There Be Giants, and something we see created by a whole range of circumstances – new leadership, a change in the marketplace or a new competing product to name a few. But the change waves that we could see off the back of COVID-19 could radically change our environment and workplace which could be for the better.

According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, 99% of people surveyed said they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers, with a flexible schedule, working from any location and having more time with family all cited as factors driving a growing number to consider remote working.

The need for remote working is evident but forced remote working and choosing to have a degree of flexibility within your working schedule are two vastly different things. Choosing to work from home one or two days a week offers employees the flexibility that is so evidently craved, with the added benefits of reduced commuter traffic, travel time and the subsequent environmental impact. The average length of commute in the UK is 54 minutes (BBC) with employees who must take multiple modes of transport recording higher levels of stress. Has the lockdown forced a working change that could impact the health of our workforce beyond recognition? 

Do we see workers returning to ‘normal’ post pandemic? The simple answer is no. Employees have had a taste of remote working. Businesses have adapted to working remotely and found that there are so many benefits to both the employee and the employer. We are talking a better work/life balance, less distractions when working at home (at least when the kids are in school) more valued employees who have been given the responsibility and who have been trusted to work from home. Whilst the benefits are never ending and ultimately outweigh the negatives, we must give the negatives a mention as it is important to place importance on them, so you as an employee or employer are aware of the possible bumps along the road. 

Our workforce is finding switching off to be an ever-increasing problem. The ease of access to every device and cloud-based platform allows us to work wherever and whenever. How do you make your brain switch off when it associates home with both work and rest? Moving to a remote workforce requires increased awareness of employee’s mental wellbeing. As you are not together as a team, it is harder to pick up on visual cues and tell-tale signs that someone is struggling. Especially if relationships and connections break down in the workplace due to the distance between your team. 

According to a survey conducted last year by DigitalOcean, 82% of US tech professionals who work remotely said they feel burnt out, with 52% saying they end up working longer hours and 40% believing that they are expected to contribute more than those who do not work remotely. However, they did report having a better work-life balance.

This is where check-ins become even more valuable. At Team TBG we have been checking in with each other daily, not only to chat about our work schedule and new ideas, but also to check in on how everyone is doing. Making your check-in space a safe place to air honestly how your team is feeling, offers other team members the heads up that someone needs support. 

Real estate no more 

Bounce back is something we are hearing a lot about, whether it’s the bounce back of the economy or of specific industries such as the retail sector. One thing we are questioning is the bounce back of the real estate sector – are we likely to see a shrinkage of the commercial office space sector as more and more of the workforce adapt to remote working and a more flexible approach to work? There will always be certain sectors that are likely to return to a normal office setting – think call centres, and the financial sector. However, are we likely to see creative industries and tech businesses move away from the conventional office space to a flexible remote offering? We think so! This model of working could also impact on the likely boom of start-ups that appear following this pandemic – less overheads as remote working is more of an appealing option for the workforce. 

A move towards more flexible office space is likely to become popular, with workers using a hot desk in an office building as and when they need it. 

Commercial office space saturates most cities and drives the city centre living market. Along with the leisure draws to living in a city, a large proportion of the workforce live closer to the city to reduce commuting time and costs. Is this likely switch to a more remote workforce, and therefore a downturn in need for commercial office space, likely to see people move out of the city? The draw of more space and a higher likelihood of getting on the property market over renting in a city centre location could prove very appealing if there is no commute. 

Productivity post pandemic 

In the past, micromanagement and trust have been cited as reasons for stopping teams from working from home. But with the forced change in the workplace brought about by COVID-19, are we seeing a significant shift in approach to the myth that people simply don’t work hard remotely? 

If, like many other businesses, you are using this time to assess the way forward for your business and your teams, should remote working and the need for a conventional office space be something you consider moving forward? 

Undoubtedly for a great number of industries, working from home is a very real and sensible option. However the transition may have bumps along the way. 

According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Working report, 19% of workers said that loneliness was their biggest struggle when working remotely.

Technology can be one way of mitigating this. Human beings are built for human interaction and connections and it’s essential for the productivity and wellbeing of your teams that these interactions aren’t lost in the transition to home working. Utilise the great platforms that are available to you. Ensure your teams know which platforms are for work and which are for play. Keep programmes such as Slack and Trello for business communications but use WhatsApp and Zoom to ensure interactions do not disappear. 

Having an online space that you can dip in and out almost like the common room or kitchen table kind of environment is a great way of keeping your team connected. 

Setting goals and objectives is no different when working remotely, but the progress and check-in process becomes even more important as you cannot simply lean over the desk to ask a question. 

At There Be Giants we are adapting to working remotely and helping our clients stay on-track towards their objectives with regular check-ins and advice on how to pivot their OKRs for shorter timeframes. Especially as the world seems to be changing on a daily if not hourly basis now. 

We are also talking to businesses across the globe who are thinking about the future post pandemic and how they can keep their teams aligned and on track when working from home. This is when OKRs can really deliver for you and help you crack on, ensuring your teams are aligned even with the forced changes taking place across every workplace.