BIMBeing: The Journey #46
#46 – Back to the old, or forward…
Photograph by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels.
We’re now several months into the Covid-19 crisis and I image that, to many of us, ‘normal’ is a relative term. What did we used to consider as ‘normal’? And, more importantly, do we want to go back there? From what I’ve seen, heard and personally felt over the past few weeks, I don’t think that most of us want to go back to the old ‘normal’ at all.
Sure, it was great when you could pop to the local shops on a whim without queuing outside. You could meet up with friends and family whenever you felt like it and you could sit in a sunny beer garden throughout every bank holiday weekend. You could also go for a haircut whenever it was required, a luxury that many of us are definitely missing; we’re now either part of the Wookie-looking group, or the amateur barber brigade, neither of which are in fashion. But, for myself and many, many others, the ‘old’ normal wasn’t all beer-gardens and spontaneous shopping trips. What about the 5 or 6 days per week of long, expensive commutes? Spending many more hours in a stuffy office or site cabin than in the comfort of your own home, surrounded by family? Squeezing onto packed tubes, trains and buses in order to reach a laptop at a desk, rather than popping on some slippers and setting to work in the dining room? We always seem to look back on the past with our rose-tinted glasses on, but we look forward through gloomy grey lenses with nothing but pessimism. Now, though, does a new ‘normal’ really look so bad?
My old normal was between 3-4 hours per day of public transport, 5 days per week. My new normal is a polar opposite, 3-4 seconds per day walking from the bedroom to the home office. Being 100% based from home has shown that actually, I rarely need to be physically present to fulfil my job role. Some parts of the job certainly require me to attend site, and full-time home working is a little too insular for me – as much as I hate to admit it, I do partly miss socialising with my colleagues from whom I feel quite distant at the moment. At the same time, the thought of returning to 5 days per week of commuting fills me with nothing but dread. I never want that to be my ‘normal’ again.
My work-life balance now isn’t just better, it’s within my control. I don’t have to worry about trains being delayed or rushing on to get a good seat. I don’t feel pressured to sit down at my desk at a specific time for fear of people commenting that I’ve done 30 minutes less today than my contracted hours, or 3 hours more! I feel that I have true flexibility over my entire week, rather than a rigid Monday to Friday and a constant longing for the weekend to begin. I don’t feel tired, the weeks don’t seem to drag, I’m certainly not as stressed and I have more free time in the evenings. And yet, in spite of all of this, I’m still delivering work and achieving results just the same as before. I’m proving to myself and to my colleagues that I don’t need to be sat in an office to fulfil my work commitments, and I know that many others are doing exactly the same.
I’ve seen results from several surveys, within companies and to wider audiences, that show overwhelming majorities of people want to continue working from home, in some capacity. One survey I’ve seen showed that over 75% of one company’s employees that have been ‘forced’ to work from home during the pandemic would like to continue working from home between 2-4 days per week in the future. Companies cannot ignore this any longer, we have to embrace this change and look forward to the new ‘normal’. Let us use this terrible situation to realise our potential because if current circumstances can’t make it happen, nothing will – we’ve reached our turning point, it’s now or never.
There are benefits to both the employer and the employees, it’s an alarmingly obvious win-win. Employees feel empowered to control their own work schedule, they feel trusted to continue to work efficiently without being physically watched over and their stress levels are reduced by removing all of the obstacles that come with a rigid 5-day week away from home (be it commuting, childcare or simply being available for home deliveries) – I covered some of this back in post #12, motivation. Employers immediately benefit from a more motivated workforce, but it doesn’t simply end there. Motivated employees will be more efficient and effective, there could also be huge savings on travel costs and general expenses, even the long-term possibility of reducing office space/size are all ways in which the company can gain from this. Companies can become leaner, more efficient enterprises that not only function well on a normal day-to-day basis, but are better equipped in the future to deal with unplanned changes in working arrangement, such as a pandemic.
Implementing all of this won’t be easy, but surely now we all have the evidence to see that it needs to be done. All of the technology required is already available, that isn’t the issue. It’s attitudes and mind-sets that we all have to work on.
How can employers start to trust their employees to work effectively whilst not in the office?
How can the implementation of programmes/targets/KPIs ensure that output is recognised above time present?
How do we remove the stigma, something that I have certainly felt in the past, around ‘working from home’? How do we stop others implying that this is somehow a bogus day off?
There is work to be done in changing these attitudes, I see it as the only real hurdle to the success of a new ‘normal’. To end on a good note, those of us in ‘digital’ roles will be at the forefront of this evolution in working arrangements. We have the technical knowledge required to implement efficient remote working, be that with new processes or the application of specific technologies, we should and will be part of this journey.
Get ready team digital, we must help to deliver this change.