But, while the pandemic continues, the vaccination roll out means many offices and premises are back open for business. So is the great home working experiment now officially over?
We wouldn’t bet on it. Many employees are returning to work, but far fewer are working from offices today than before the pandemic. Some of those still at home are medically vulnerable and others are fearful, but in many cases businesses have decided to retain an element of remote working as both an employee and bottom line benefit.
In other words, it looks like remote working is here to stay.
How common is working from home?
In 2020, many employees who weren’t furloughed worked from home. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 8.4 million of us worked from home for at least some of the year.
But lockdown is over – at least for now – and many offices and workplaces have reopened. Clearly, many employees are back at work, or will be going back in the coming weeks and months.
At the same time, there has been a fundamental shift in how we view the working week.
In January the chief executive of Unilever, the company behind brands like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Dove soap and Lipton tea, told a conference that a significant part of the firm’s 150,000-strong global workforce would never go back to the office full time.
Firms as diverse as Twitter and Lloyds have also said they’ll stick with flexible working in some form even after the pandemic ends. Morgan Stanley has predicted 30% of workers will work from home after the pandemic, double the pre-Covid figure.
Most of these employees will go into work some of the time, but some home working will become an integral part of the working week for many. One recent study found that 41% of UK employers will embrace this “hybrid” work model by 2023.
The benefits of remote working
There are significant benefits for those who do. Perhaps most importantly, employees like remote and hybrid work and the better work/life balance it can bring.
In fact, one survey of 3,000 employees found that fewer than one in ten wanted to return to the office full time.
That has huge significance for your recruitment and retention strategy. Firms that refuse to offer flexible working are likely to miss out on the best talent, and may even lose valuable employees to competitors who do.
Remote and hybrid work also has cost-cutting benefits for businesses, who can rent smaller offices and cut spending on utilities, office equipment and services like cleaning and security.
The pitfalls of remote working
While there are clear benefits to offering remote working options, there are also pitfalls for the unprepared.
Most significantly, businesses have to think about whether a remote workforce is properly equipped to offer a consistent and professional service to customers. They also have to think about how teams will communicate and collaborate internally.
How do you make sure that remote workers can make and take professional calls from home? How do you promote teamwork and a sense of company culture in a dispersed workforce?
Hybrid work (where employees spend some of the time in the office and some of the time at home) can provide a partial answer. Businesses might decide that every member of a team has to be in the office on the same day, at least once a week.
But that still means employees will spend large parts of their working lives away from their colleagues. Ensuring they can work as effectively at home as they can in the office is a major challenge for businesses adopting flexible working models.
How can technology help?
The way to avoid the pitfalls of remote work and harness its many benefits is through the judicious use of technology.
The right digital solutions can set your employees up for permanent remote or hybrid working, by giving them the means to communicate smoothly with customers and collaborate efficiently with colleagues.
Perhaps the most important ingredient in a home working solution is Voice over IP (VoIP). VoIP lets you make and take professional business calls wherever you have an internet connection, and a mobile app lets you use your smartphone in the same way you’d use a dedicated handset.
Employees with VoIP take a single phone number and a full raft of features with them wherever they go, so customers won’t notice any difference to the service they receive.
And a VoIP solution from Jutel comes with a range of added extras, to make communication that much more efficient. For example, you can automatically forward voicemails and faxes to your email, so you never miss a message. Or use your Jutel VoIP service for video conferencing and three-way calling, ensuring colleagues are always connected.
There are many more, but suffice to say that VoIP should be a priority for any business considering transitioning to permanent remote or hybrid working.
More than VoIP
But that’s not all Jutel can offer. Our mobile device management service, for example, ramps up security for all company smartphones and laptops, which is ideal when employees are taking hardware back and forth between home and office.
And as a trusted reseller for all four of the UK’s major mobile network providers, we can provide your remote workforce with the right data plan and handsets for your needs, complete with bespoke and highly cost-effective tariffs, shared data pools and simplified billing.
Jutel offers more
With these services and more, we can help you adopt the technology you need to make remote working work, and with Jutel you get service to match.
Our team has a huge combined experience in the telecoms industry, and we always provide bespoke services tailored to the needs of every customer. We’ll get to know your business in detail and recommend the technology to drive your remote working future.