How Covid-19 has Changed the UK Workforce
Without any doubt, since lockdown began back in March, working from home has risen sharply. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that, at the time, around 1.7 million people were based primarily from home. In the week of the survey, 4 million reporting working from home at some point.
While new figures are pending, it seems incredibly likely that these figures will have tripled - or more.
So what does this mean for the future of the traditional workplace; and how can we make remote working less isolating?
The Challenges of Remote Working
Remote working is far more prevalent in some industries than others, but many more employers are identifying that office-based roles can be carried out from home.
In the weeks of social distancing, workplace closures and self-isolation, this has proved a massively valuable tool in helping businesses continue to function and communicate when teams are unable to be together.
However, this presents a fresh challenge where staff miss the interaction and social aspect of working side by side with their colleagues each day.
Some of the challenges experienced include:
- Isolation. When we are used to chatting with our colleagues every day, brainstorming ideas and asking for help with a particularly tricky problem, being alone can feel lonely and isolating.
- Overwork. We know that productivity tends to increase when staff work from home (contrary to traditional beliefs!). This is often because employees don't want to be seen to be 'slacking' so end up overworking, or don't have the natural breaks built into their day - think of the trip to the coffee machine, nipping out for lunch or having a chat about your weekend!
- Lack of communication. Some of us are very used to working alone; but a team dynamic can be hard to maintain when you are so far away from each other. Messages can be missed, team members left out of the loop, and projects end up being worked on out of alignment.
These factors matter - because people are what make businesses successful. If staff are feeling isolated, are missing any kind of interaction with their colleagues, and are becoming so focused on their work that they forget to look after themselves, it is a sign that a big storm is brewing.
Stress is serious, burn out is real, and these are critical issues for a successful workplace. However, as workplaces evolve, so too has technology - and there are some simple solutions that can mitigate or avoid these challenges altogether!
How to Successfully Work Remotely
Here at SAS Accounting, we embrace innovation and the flexibility that digital technologies provide us to serve our clients at any distance.
To help teams, or people, struggling to maintain motivation, here are some of the ways to alleviate the stress of working from home, and to sustain those vital human interactions:
- Remote desktops.
If you need access to a central drive, having remote access to your PC is about more than convenience. Being able to find all of your files, see what your colleagues are working on, and having the comfort of a familiar layout makes working remotely less disorientating. There are lots of programs you can try - some of the most popular include TeamViewer, SplashTop and Microsoft Remote Desktop.
- Virtual meetings.
You don't have to be in the same room to chat, and apps such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype have grown exponentially during the Coronavirus pandemic. Having a face to face call is far better than a phone call - you have the benefits of direct interaction, being able to express yourself more fully. Try arranging a virtual coffee break; it sounds a little strange, but this is hugely important to maintain those social aspects of your workplace relationships and is a great way to have a casual chat, catch up, and share your thoughts about how things are working!
- Chat groups.
Emails are more formal, and - for most of us! - take longer to type. Having a chat group is more familiar, and separates the formal tasks involved in your job, from those valuable personal interactions. You can try apps like Slack or What's App where you can keep in touch with your team, without needing to be continually monitoring your inbox.
- Virtual task lists.
One of the biggest challenges for teams who are used to working closely together is trying to coordinate efforts from a distance. There are some great apps for this - try ClickUp, Trello or Monday. You can post notes, schedule reminders, assign jobs to colleagues and tick off tasks as they are completed.
Self Care in Isolated Working
The most crucial factor of successfully working from home is paying equal attention to your stress levels and personal wellbeing, as you do to the quality of your work.
Take regular breaks, work somewhere with natural light, and have a comfortable chair to sit in. If you use a schedule, make sure to include coffee breaks and a lunch hour - taking a little time away from your desk will make your working hours more productive, happier, and prevent the burn out that is all too easy!
We hope these tips and suggestions are useful; and are always here to help!
SAS Accounting is a full-service accountancy practice in Colchester, Essex. We assist clients with transitions to cloud-based software and provide virtual accountancy services from payroll to VAT returns, statutory accounts to cash flow forecasting.
If you need help managing your accountancy functions while your offices are closed, or are transitioning to a new way of working, give us a call, and we will be delighted to chat through the options.