• Wednesday , 2 December 2020

From the new normal to the ideal normal

The speed at which the new way of working has become the new normal has taken everyone by surprise. CTouch argues that this is all the more reason to accelerate the shift to the ideal normal!

Remember this? ‘The future’s way of working: flexible jobs only?’ This was the title of one of our previous whitepapers, published in late 2019, when the world had never heard of COVID-19. Of course, no-one could have guessed just how foresightful this would be, but the fact is that the new way of working has become the new normal at an unprecedented speed. In many cases, it is no longer even a question of whether we ‘want’ to work flexibly. We have been overtaken swiftly by events. Flexibility has become a necessity.

But because we always like to make a virtue out of necessity, it seemed a good idea to pool and update all our knowledge about ‘the new way of working’ in this white paper. What are the advantages of working from home (spoiler: most people wouldn’t want it any other way, seriously!) and what can be improved (which strugglescan we tackle)? We’ll clearly outline the bestandworst practicesfor you. We’ll then talk about our views on hybrid working and, finally, we’ll provide you with a number of practical tips that you can apply immediately.

Over the years we have, of course, already built up a lot of know-how, so take advantage of that. Or even better, get your employees to take advantage of that. Because there is still much to improve, so that we can move from the new normal to the ideal normal.

The advantages: the new normal

Working from home, at your own desk, with your favourite music in the background, a nice cup of coffee and no annoying office sounds: almost 60% of employees throughout the world are currently enjoying these working conditions1. Research shows that no less than 98% would like to continue working from home throughout his or her career2.

Gartner predicts that generation Z will increasingly force this trend. This is the generation born between 1995 and 2010, the true digital natives! These young people have spent their entire lives communicating digitally, and digital contact, as opposed to personal contact, is the norm for them. As generation Z prefers to work remotely, over time, teleworking will be the default3.

Change can be forever

Some farsighted multinationals have been ahead of the curve since the corona outbreak4:

  • Fujitsu has announced a permanent work-from-home plan for its staff.
  • Twitter has told its staff they can work from home ‘forever’.
  • Facebook and Google will allow their employees to continue working from home until (at least) the end of the year.

The good news is that the vast majority of employees recognise the advantages of working from home. Aside from wearing loungers, the main reasons cited are the flexible scheduling, making it easier to maintain a work/life balance, the fact that they can work from anywhere they wish and no daily commute to and from the office. For this reason, particularly people with (young) children are completely in favour of it: before the outbreak of the virus, 46% of them wanted to work from home and that percentage has now almost doubled to 86%.

These are the advantages of remote working:

  • 32% flexible scheduling
  • 26% flexible location
  • 21% zero travel time
  • 11% more time with the family

One added bonus is that people find it easier to conduct difficult business conversations by telephone or through video conferencing.

With such resounding figures, surely we can roll out the red carpet for flexible remote working? According to a survey of financial directors, more than 74% of them plan to make the recent shift an established practice5. That is because there are also huge benefits for employers: from increased employee happiness to a positive effect on the environment. That is why employers primarily see the abrupt transition to the new normal as a crash course in ‘successful remote working’. A course packed with worstand best practicesthrough which they can adjust their policy and technological infrastructure to a new standard for the long haul. With less commuting and more videoconferencing, a company will save around 44,000 tonnes in CO₂emissions6.

Employees who work fulltime and remotely are 22% more likely to say they’re happy in their jobs than their office-based co-workers. Although they were not asked about the presence of DIY-enthusiastic neighbours or infamous barking neighbourhood dogs, you could have the misfortune of experiencing these. [Tip: good noise cancellingheadphones work wonders…]

Consequently, there is a strong enough case to embrace and improve the new normal. We can certainly think of this vast adjustment as a kind of revolution, and inherent to revolutions is that no-one knows exactly what to do or how to do it until the dust has settled.

The disadvantages of the new normal?

OK, let’s also take a look at the worst practices. ‘Switching off’ appears to be the most contentious issue amongst employees. As a consequence of this, in the new normal, the average working day is around 48 minutes longer, with additional surges when sending emails and attending online meetings.

Furthermore, without a defined workplace and working hours, work and home life are more likely to blend together. Research also shows that many employees have difficulty with the lack of personal contact and that a third of employees are even afraid that, because of this, their dedication will be valued less2.

The strugglesin brief:

  • 22% unplugging after work
  • 19% loneliness
  • 17% lack of personal contact
  • 10% distractions at home
  • 8% staying motivated
  • 7% taking (sufficient) vacation time
  • 3% reliable Wi-Fi

Not unimportant details for the new workplace. So, how do you keep everyone ‘on board’ whilst they are all floating around the flagship in their own dinghies at the same time? By making sure that those dinghies are as effective and as comfortable with one another as possible and that the ‘main deck’ on the flagship stays in contact with them. In other words, by making the right technology available to them! As working from home will be here to stay, it is even more important to set up the digital workplace of the future in the best possible way.

Fortunately, the technological possibilities in the new normal are endless. Not only to enable remote working, but predominantly to simplify it and to keep distributed teams together. To remove as many struggles as possible, thereby generating even more conviction and confidence amongst employees and employers. The suppliers of relevant technology are also responding to this, by aligning their services and products more effectively with the practical needs that have arisen.

Microsoft Teams, one of the most commonly used programs for videoconferencing, grew from 44 million daily users at the end of March to more than 75 million daily users. On average, the company saw more than 200 million meeting participants in a day, generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes. The latest record was 2.7 billion meeting minutes in a single day7. [At CTOUCH, too, we use Microsoft Teams a lot every day to make video calls, to chat and to work together on documents.]

These figures speak for themselves, however a word of warning should be added: the disadvantage of (too much) videoconferencing is that the brain tires after 30-40 minutes and that’s not conducive to productivity and creativity. So keep it short and sweet!

Digital transformation: from AI to remote monitoring

In the new normal, innovation is definitely no longer just about so-called workplace toolsfor videoconferencing, or to enable agile scrumming, but increasingly also about assistive technology. The recent digital transformation requires increased investment in ‘the framework’: the cloud, time-tracking software, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, remote monitoring platforms and predictive maintenance tools, just to throw a few terms at it. All are necessary to maintain/strengthen a company’s IT service and capacity and to add value to your company. This may seem like a costly investment, but simply not keeping up, is something no one can afford.

That is also shown by figures in various survey reports5,6. For example, 42% of financial directors worry about the effects of the new normal on the company’s productivity. In addition, 41% of technical managers have noticed that their IT resources are under pressure. Just like the protection of the increased digital data: for 40% of auditors, IT security has become the main concern of the crisis. Expectations are that remote working/remote teamwork presents new challenges for cybersecurity, for which new individual, collective and business solutions are emerging. Those developments are in full swing.

Finding that balance

Thanks to the innovative spirit of the technological sector, we are gradually getting closer to the ideal normal: a situation in which we work remotely just as pleasantly, easily and safely as we do at the office. So that every employee can open his or her laptop where and when it is most convenient. That is, in a nutshell, the balance in terms of flexible working that we were still missing. The ideal normal is, therefore, not entirely at home, but also not entirely at the office, but the right mix of the two: i.e.hybrid working! This means that both the advantages and disadvantages of working from home fall into place.

This is how you take the first steps towards a successful and safe hybrid working environment:

Provide good collaboration tools
Everyone should be able to work anywhere, at any time and in any location. Look for systems and tools that enable effective cooperation and communication in both the physical and virtual worlds.

Prioritise safety
Working safely and cybersecurity are still new to many people, whilst the risk of data leaks is increasing. Now that hybrid working is becoming the ideal normal and people are predominantly working from home, the foregoing will play a more decisive role in the security of valuable data.

We anticipate that the shift to hybrid working will also have a marked impact on the way in which office space is organised (wherever that may be) and we will examine this further in future whitepapers and blogs.

8 top tips for working remotely

We stay on top, of course, of all new developments so that we can help companies in every way possible in their search for the new normal. In the meantime, much can be gained from these top tips for remote workers:

  • Better to have communicated ten times too many than once too little. Be clear and unambiguous to each other about what everyone is doing.
  • Keep a close eye on your schedule. Plan and monitor your working hours and projects and update your colleagues about that.
  • Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. They are sacrosanct and create structure in your day. Worried about meeting those deadlines? Communicate this as soon as possible!
  • Keep your contact information up to date. How can you be contacted and when?
  • Keep your autoreply and voicemail up to date. Explain what other people can expect from you in terms of response time.
  • Reach clear agreements with your family. Try to minimise interruptions.
  • Plan and take breaks. These are essential, both for your productivity and your own wellbeing. If necessary, ask a colleague to ‘monitor’ you (remotely).
  • Don’t disappear into a vacuum. Respond regularly to messages, telephone calls and chats. You can, of course, go offline temporarily to focus on a task or project, but do keep your finger on the pulse in between.

Does this whitepaper leave you wanting more? Previously we wrote a whitepaper about 7 tips for an effective meeting. It can be downloaded here:

https://ctouch.eu/uk/7-tips-for-an-effective-meeting#whitepaper

References:

  1. Global research remote working Capterra: https://www.capterra.nl/blog/1516/wereldwijd-onderzoek-thuiswerken-capterra
  2. 6 charts that show what employers and employees really think about remote working:https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/coronavirus-covid19-remote-working-office-employees-employers
  3. With Coronavirus in mind, is your organization ready for remote work:

https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/with-coronavirus-in-mind-are-you-ready-for-remote-work/

  1. Netflix boss: Remote working has negative effects: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-54063648
  2. The Implications Of Remote Working As The Workplace Of The Future:https://www.forbes.com/sites/traceywelsonrossman/2020/04/28/the-implications-of-remote-working-as-the-workplace-of-the-future/
  3. Working remotely: what it is and why your organization should be doing it:https://www.workplace.com/blog/working-remotely/
  4. Microsoft Teams Sees Jump in Usage as Remote Work Surges:https://www.statista.com/chart/21191/daily-active-users-of-microsoft-teams/
  5. Tips to stay productive when working remotely:https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/covid-19/tips-to-stay-productive-when-working-remotely.html

 

 

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