There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionised how we work. Enforced national lockdowns, restrictions on travel and social distancing mean many organisations have worked remotely, with employees working from their home offices and kitchen tables and relying on email and video conferencing.
Although more than a third of employees in the UK are still working remotely, change is on the horizon. Industries like manufacturing, construction, and transportation are seeing their workforce return to normal. With the effects of vaccination programmes, many businesses are anticipating a return to the office.
But what impact has remote working had on businesses more used to office-based work, and will they make any permanent changes? How has the enforced switch to remote working during the pandemic affected employees and working culture? Our client Phil Herbert, VP HR at Sharp Electronics Europe, talks change and the new world of work with us in his interview with Future Talent.
According to Phil, video conferencing has produced the same results as in-person meetings. As part of a Japanese corporation, Sharp in Europe’s prevailing culture has generally been one of expecting people to work in the office. “Pre-pandemic, we had some flexible working practice but not to a large extent. The expectation was that people should generally be in the office. However, the pandemic has forced us to work remotely, and this has been a huge jump for the organisation, both from a physical ‘how-to do it’ and a cultural viewpoint,” he says.
The impact on productivity has long been held as one of the challenges of remote working. However, for many organisations this has proved to be a fallacy. A recent study found that only 18% thought remote working had made their organisations less productive, with 44% suggesting it had actually made them more productive. The challenge for leaders is maintaining this while shifting to a hybrid remote/office working plan as our economies begin to open up.
Additionally, without being tied to an office, the talent pool has widened exponentially. “Where you can attract talent from has massively widened and what employees expect from employers is different too. Remote working has changed everything.”
Ultimately, the pandemic has acted as an accelerant for many businesses. Digital transformation projects, employee wellbeing programmes and flexible working agendas have all been discussed for years, but the pandemic has forced organisations like Sharp to act. And while the true impact won’t be known for some time, there is – as Phil says – no going back.
For more of Phil’s insights on productivity, culture and hybrid working plans, read the full interview here.Get In Touch