Covid-19 has taught us many things as a nation and quickly pushed many businesses to re-think the way they operate. Whether it be in corporate roles, construction or retail, we’ve all had to adapt and adopt new ways of working throughout the nationwide lockdown.
One of the biggest changes for many businesses was switching to a working-from-home model – and we were certainly one of those businesses to do so.
Like many other businesses, we embraced new ways to do business with our customers, connect as a team and collaborate on work across our business. And boy oh boy did we learn a lot about the new possibilities and opportunities of running our business differently.
We’re now wrestling with what this means for our business long-term and asking a bunch of questions like: “how do our people want to work now?”, “what’s worked so well we have to keep doing?”, “how can these new ways of working support our business strategies and growth?” and “what do we need to do to our office space to help support these new ways of working?”
We, like many businesses, want to remain flexible and to evaluate some of the things we’ve done in the last two months to lock in the benefits of having a permanent flexible working arrangement for our employees and our business.
In the efforts to understand how this would work for us we decided to do some research and have compiled it here so that other businesses in our community can benefit from it too.
Back in 2018 before Covid-19 was about, the NZ Herald published this story ‘Study finds work-from- home employees more productive then office workers’ which spoke to a study that was carried out by Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom, it took 500 employees from a travel agency in China called Ctrip and split those 500 people into two groups, half working from home and the other half stayed at the office.
The study showed after two years that those that worked from home often completed a full workday, whereas those at the office would often be late to work or leave early numerous times a week.
The Herald also noted that “Additionally, the study found that those working from home saw a 50 per cent decrease in attrition. It was found that the group took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off. As a bonus, they were also helping reduce carbon emissions by not travelling to work and back home again five times a week.” And not to mention that the company also saved US$2000 per employee in rent by reducing the amount of office space required.
Since Covid-19 has developed, many of us have now had the opportunity to trial a working-from-home model and have tested the theory ourselves. Each business is different with their approach and will likely adopt a more flexible working arrangement for the future. Big tech companies such as Spotify and Twitter seem to be leading this kind of approach as outlined in this BBC article which states Spotify’s workforce will work from home for the rest of the year and Twitter has offered its employees to work from home permanently. The article also showcases a long list of other large companies who have adopted new ways of working.
In this article ‘Covid-19 coronavirus: thousands of corporate workers to keep working from home’ written by NZ Herald reporter, Cherie Howie who talks to many corporate industries such as telecommunications companies Spark and Vodafone as well as ASB Banks general Manger Robyn Worthington who said "some of our people have been pleasantly surprised by the benefits of working from home in terms of commute times, greater flexibility over working hours, more opportunities to exercise and be with family members."
The important word to note however is ‘some’ not all employees will find advantages of working from home, those who have young families that occupy the household during the day may find this as a distraction. Other employees will prefer working from home to be able to reserve a few more hours in the day to themselves, rather than spent commuting to and from home.
Open plan offices can often be a distraction to many with this research highlighted by Forbes, showing “1 in 3 employees feel distractions and noise from open workspaces hinder their productivity, while 1 in 6 says it hinders creativity as well”.
With that in mind it shows that flexible working arrangements should be considered for the future of all businesses. This doesn’t mean to say every employee will want to work from home but the option to is incredibly progressive and will benefit those who can successfully show they’re able to productively. Perhaps employees will prefer three days in the office and two at home, or some may just want one day from home a week.
Everyone will be different and if businesses take this into account, flexible working arrangements will have the best bet at being successful. Giving employees an option will mean everyone feels as if their requirements for a productive more suitable workspace are being met.