This year, the coronavirus epidemic has swept the world, forcing thousands of people to work from home, turning their routines and ways of living upside down. But could this crisis pave the way towards a positive revolution for the world of work?
Working from home in the European Union
According to a 2019 study by Eurostat, 5.4% of those employed between the ages of 15 and 64 worked mainly from home. This figure has remained more or less constant at around 5% for the last decade. However, this is only one example of more modern, flexible working patterns; in the past few years, there has been a slight increase in the number of workers who sometimes work from home: from 6.0% in 2009 to 9.0% in 2019. We expect this number to rise further in the near future. Without doubt this change will have positive consequences for both workers and organisations.
Businesses which have already made the change
Although certain, more progressive organisations have already had work-from-home models for years, the current situation has encouraged others to change their systems: most Google employees will continue to work from home until 2021, and Twitter’s CEO announced that workers will be able to work from home indefinitely from now on. What’s more, Twitter has suspended all business travel and in-person events until 2021 and has given employees funds to buy home-office equipment such as desks and office chairs. This pandemic could lead us to adopt a new digital-by-default trend within businesses, shaping the post-lockdown ‘new normal.’ Surely, many workers would be pleased to get this new sense of freedom at work.
What needs to change?
We see 2 main changes:
- Fewer fixed working hours
- More work online by default.
Such a system would have to be built upon workers’ freedom and the trust between them and their bosses. Essentially, it would be based on responsibility. Everyone can agree that trust and responsibility are two fundamental people skills in life and all our relationships. As far as possible doubts from employers, The Society for Human Resource Management makes a just observation, remarking that
“if you cant trust your employees to work flexibly, why hire them in the first place?”
Organisations and managers must shift their focus from hours worked to results obtained. In this way, a new culture of respect and engagement could emerge, something from which everyone can benefit. Certainly, a revolution in business would be required, otherwise all negative aspects of office working would be simply be shifted to working from home.
These two changes would lead to numerous advantages for businesses and employees, such as:
- Environmental benefits from fewer commutes and business-related travel
- The ability to attract talented workers who do not wish to relocate or want the possibility of working in a way that suits their needs and their lives
- A reduction in cost thanks to using less space for offices
- The physical office would become a collaborative space for people to meet and work together when they want
- Increased responsibility for workers
- A new approach to meetings, transforming them from throw-away into structured events, as more importance would be placed on in-person meetings if people had to travel to attend.
Moreover, this model aligns with Teal principles, as the wholeness of the individual would be tended to by a healthy work-life-balance. In addition, increased responsibility would lead to higher levels of self-organisation. Indeed, research shows that these concepts are beneficial for staff engagement and business productivity.
Clearly, changes need to be made to the way many businesses operate in order for them to take this step, this leap of faith. It all must come down to forging open and transparent communication and clear objectives. Guidelines and deadlines would help workers in their self-organisation and encourage them to keep motivated towards goals, but without too much pressure.
Once employees are engaged, it is possible to introduce benefits while maintaining a productive and fulfilling working atmosphere. For example, Netflix, LinkedIn, and Virgin offer their employees unlimited holiday. Such a move is only possible with a working culture based on respect and engagement. It is clear that the key lies in motivating staff and encouraging and developing their sense of responsibility towards their job. When everyone dedicates themselves to a task which motivates them and helps the business succeed, many opportunities open up.
Managing people towards motivation and responsibility