Working from home safely is not the same as remote working safely – the latter has been in practice across many sectors for many years, but more of that later in this article.
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2021
The subject of working from home safely covers a multitude of sins; are we talking employee safety – mentally and physically engaged in a safe working environment, or the company’s safety – safe in the knowledge that the employees are productive and still producing high-quality work that our clients have come to expect.
As a marketing agency, and a digital marketing agency at that, we were in a good place physically to transition working from within an office environment to home working.
Why is that?
Prior to the pandemic much of our creative work and client campaign reporting was conducted online. Our Astute Metrics platform provides reports 24/7 for our clients wherever they happen to be, so they always know how their current campaigns are performing.
This platform also allows us to answer calls at home, if anyone rings the office number or our direct landline – it rings our extensions at home.
We have been able to transition our social media training courses to online courses and our delegates have been able to join our courses from all over the UK. Zoom and Microsoft Teams have played a big part in us being able to deliver these, with our trainers working from home delivering the courses.
We still interact with each other with regular agency catch-up meetings three times a week. As well as keeping up the office type banter, they are useful to:
Microsoft Teams has become one of our core communications software programs internally. Not only has it been great for working practice but also holding regular online quizzes after hours and even attending interactive online theatre performances. Both of these helps to maintain our team spirit and office banter – although who knew my knowledge of national flags was so poor!
Consequently, as a group we are mentally and physically engaged with what is happening across the business. That is, two of the boxes are ticked from an employee perspective. The third box is being a safe working environment at home. The agency has invested in software packages and hardware to allow everyone to function normally, albeit at home.
Wherever possible flexi-time is worked to fit in with each other’s home life and home-schooling demands, and those that have needed it have moved the relevant office furniture into their homes.
So that is the company’s safety taken care of with all the relevant boxes ticked. But that is not job done. Working from home was meant to be a temporary solution to enable staff to function and continue to earn money whilst the pandemic ran its course.
Can you believe that it was 12 months ago when the first lockdown happened? As we come to the end of the third national lockdown, with tentative dates for when work and socialising can get back to normal, there is definitely an air of positivity.
Like many others we will all need to prepare for the move from home working back into office working, but what will that look like? Many of us have come to enjoy the freedom that working from home gives us as individuals.
A number of companies mainly, high-tech companies have said that they will not be rushing their employees back into an office environment, and there are some companies that have downsized their offices in anticipation of not all employees being back in the office at the same time.
We could then see working from home morph into remote working, where those, whose role means that they have to be office-based, return to that type of environment, and those that can work anywhere that has an internet connection, continue a mix of working at home, visiting clients, attending shows and exhibitions, then hot desking in the office as required.
As our receptionist says, she could answer the phone from any beach in the world and still put people through to the correct extension and update client reports, as necessary. Although that would mean our visitors would miss her warm welcome every time they step through the door and, we are not entirely sure who would take care of all the packages we have delivered to the office.
Employees that had, prior to lockdown, been remote workers will no doubt welcome the return to this type of working, as it delivers the best of both worlds to an employee, flexibility in terms of time planning, social interaction in face-to-face meetings with customers, and suppliers. Although they might be restricted to less time “on the road” and fewer hotel stays as companies might not welcome a return to having to incur these costs. This presupposes that businesses will put into place the correct Covid secure process for their meeting rooms, so visitors can be seen safely.
The remote workers’ home and work setup does not necessarily have to change as they get back to their normal routine. For the majority of us, we will have to forge a ‘new normal', the shape of which will differ from role to role and business to business. Whatever shape this new normality takes, the same concerns will exist about employees working safely – mentally and physically engaged in a safe working environment, and the company’s safety – safe in the knowledge that the employees are productive and still producing creative high-quality work in a Covid secure environment.
Hopefully, employers will not force their employees back into previous normal work schedules and instead allow for a mixture of home and office working. The changes will no doubt come as a matter of course as people gain confidence about mixing again, as the number of Covid cases reduces and the number of people who have had their first and second jabs increases.
Talking of confidence, it is important that employers aim to provide the deep cleaning required before employees return to work, the correct number of hand sanitisers are in place, office desk distancing and screens are also in place and that air conditioning and ventilation are more than adequate to provide a Covid secure environment. It is only by doing all of those things, that staff will be happy to return to the office and engage with each other in an effective manner.
This blog has been written in the safety of my home office, but I for one cannot wait to get back to visiting the office regularly, seeing clients face to face, presenting proposals to new clients face to face, and networking all in the same room, even if the breakfast meetings mean leaving home earlier. I am secretly hoping though that enough people will adapt to new remote working options so I can avoid rush hour traffic jams, which will hopefully become a thing of the past.
If anybody else feels the same way, then let us meet up and see how we can help each other grow our businesses as we shape the new normal together. Contact Bob Mountford, Client Development Manager, Astute Media 07551 976490 and firstname.lastname@example.org