As those ‘unprecedented times’ dissipate, there is still a huge number of employees working remotely across Australia. It’s also probable that going forward, many of these remote workers will continue to work from home.
In fact, one survey found that a staggering 97% of workers do not want to go back to the office full-time. Therefore, it’s clear that businesses will need to take steps to keep those employees working remotely, engaged and happy.
So, what’s the deal with company culture when so many staff are working at home?
Remote working comes with so many benefits
There’s no doubt that remote working and flexible approaches to work come with several benefits, for both employees and employers.
The equation is simple, for businesses: fewer workers in the office means fewer overheads, such as less electricity consumption and less water used. However, the biggest savings come when businesses use less floor space, thanks to the fact that companies will not need to pay for as much floor space.
This is one of the most impactful benefits of remote working for businesses; less employees on-site means that businesses can comfortably downsize to smaller offices and therefore, save significant amounts of money on their commercial tenancy. That also often equates to less spent on workstations and furniture, as well as computer hardware and software.
There are also lower work-associated costs for your employees.
Staff will also be spending less on the daily when they’re working from home. They won’t be paying for fuel or public transport, and we all know that it’s tempting to buy lunch when working in the office.
Happy employees equates to a happier working environment, and this permeates through an entire organisation. A happy working environment is a more productive and efficient workspace, meaning a better bottom line for any organisation.
Research has shown that employees who have the ability to choose whether they work in the office, or at home, are much happier than those who aren’t given that flexibility. What’s more, this survey, conducted by Warwick University, Department of Economics, showed that happy employees were about 12% more productive.
Therefore, it’s clear that by at least providing the option of working at home, you will make your workplace a happier one.
But there are also some challenges
For all the benefits that come with flexible working, there are some challenges that companies will need to navigate.
Lack of socialisation
The most talked-about issue that stems from remote working is a lack of social interaction between staff. Employees may chat throughout the day on Teams, Slack, or Zoom, but this type of communication just doesn’t have the same benefits as chatting in person.
A survey by CSS Insight in 2020, which aimed to explore the impact of the pandemic on employees, found that the biggest challenge for workers was ‘feeling disconnected from colleagues / a lack of social interaction’. However, they did find that more than half of the workers surveyed wanted the option to work from home.
People are social beings and when staff feel isolated, their mental health can be impacted, as well as their performance at work.
It’s quite easy for communication to break down when we’re not chatting face-to-face. For instance, how many times has a co-worker misread your email, only to find that the project was more urgent than they realised?
These sorts of communication problems are far more problematic and more common when employees are working remotely. This is because you can’t simply stroll over to your co-worker’s desk and hash it out in conversation.
Unfortunately, communication breakdowns are common and their impact is significant. These issues might result in projects taking much longer to complete, inability to collaborate or communication issues to superiors, and frustration for your employees.
Not everyone is tech-savvy, so you’re almost guaranteed to have some IT problems when staff are working from home. These issues often come with new programs and software, and of course, the lack of on-hand, in-person IT support.
It may be that workers cannot join meetings, or use critical processing programs. Whatever it is, technical problems can have a big impact on productivity, as well as employee morale. While IT support can be provided remotely, it will almost always take longer to find a fix than in person.
That then translates into lost time and therefore, lost income.
So how do you maintain good company culture with remote workers?
Company culture is always a crucial factor in the success of a business, whether staff are in the office or not. While the physical distance between remote workers can be difficult to navigate, there are ways to maintain and even improve company culture, despite these challenges.
Understand the needs of your staff
Good managers understand their employees and ensure that every effort is made to meet their needs; they know the benefits of doing so and comprehend the effects that flow through the business.
One example is the ‘water cooler effect’. This refers to the phenomenon of staff gathering around the water cooler throughout the day and chatting about anything and everything. It might be sports, television shows, or the latest memes. This has long been regarded as a key point of employee bonding and while these days, it’s more about the kitchen than the water cooler (or breakout areas), remote employees will be missing this interaction and opportunity to bond.
The good news is that it’s possible to recreate this effect and experience virtually, through chat rooms in Slack, or through other applications. Pick topics to spark chats between employees and foster open, light-hearted conversation, to make sure this communication continues. Trivia events and other games can also help make it a more enjoyable experience.
Strike a balance
It’s important to find the right balance. Likely, that means some remote working, and ideally at least one day in the office. It’s crucial to touch base with your staff regularly so that you can maintain an open dialogue and solve any problems quickly.
One way to do this is to rotate teams through the office each week. That way, employees will get to spend time with their closer colleagues, and where required, work collaboratively with ease. This approach is easy to implement with a hotdesking policy. And by spending time with one another, your staff will be able to foster a positive, inclusive culture.
Sydney office fit-out
When your staff do come in, they deserve a workspace conducive to relaxation and focus. That means you’ll have to consider your office fit-out and ensure it’s tailored to post-COVID working.
Many businesses have downsized to a smaller office space, thanks to the need for fewer workstations and facilities. If this is the case, a fresh Sydney office fit-out can work wonders for your organisation and your staff, particularly if your workforce operates on a flexible schedule.
At Niche Projects, we have a wealth of experience in Sydney office design and office fit-out projects. We’ve helped a wide array of companies optimise their office space for productivity and a positive employee experience, allowing them to do what they do best. We’re here to do the same for you, whatever your office design or office fit-out needs.
To discuss design in the age of COVID-19, get in touch with Niche Projects today.