Many UK businesses were allowed to re-open in the last couple of weeks, including unessential stores, pubs and nail bars. The offices, however, remain shut at least until August. This is mostly due to the fact that social distancing rules are difficult to implement in open plan offices as well as the toilet or cafeteria areas.
Working from home for the last couple of months have brought some positive outcomes. For instance, the environmental benefits as well as less time or money spent on daily commuting to work. Some people celebrate this and would like it to become the new normal – after all, we’ve proved that it is perfectly possible to get things done from home and have meetings online.
However, the majority of business owners are waiting to get back into offices as soon as possible… and for a perfectly good reason. The office culture may not be for everyone, but it certainly affects businesses more than most people realise. In fact, there could be some long-term damage that working from home has done to your business and here’s how:
Harder training process
The recruitment and training process becomes extremely difficult when working from home. While you can have a video call and explain things through a shared screen, you will never be able to paint the picture of your team and work atmosphere online. They also won’t be able to observe other example employees, the way they work, interact and deal with issues. So, they may learn how to do the daily tasks correctly, but they probably won’t feel like part of the team and won’t grow much loyalty and dedication for the company.
Most of the companies rely on employees working together on tasks, projects or common goals. Teamwork is one of the most essential skills that your staff is expected to have. When working from home, however, teamwork becomes extremely disrupted: it is a lot harder to communicate with each other or solve issues as a team. Besides, the employer may be left out of any problems the team is facing as everything is done virtually.
Effects on culture
Culture is one of the key ingredients to a successful business and it suffers when employees are working from home. Having a defined culture and employee engagement provides your team with a feeling of unity. This is extremely important because that’s when your team gets excited about working towards common goals and values together. Organisational culture is very difficult to maintain without your employees being present at the office.
Mental health problems
While there are some introverted people that are perfectly happy with their own company, most of us need the social aspect more than we think. Some of us rely on workplaces for building life-long friendships. Having lunch breaks together or even the quick catch ups with morning coffee is also an important part of our social lives. Working from home makes your employees feel isolated and therefore anxious, which could lead to potential mental health issues. This does not only affect individual employees, but it also has an impact on the whole team and the business.
Decrease in productivity
This is very individual and some of your employees may be excellent at staying productive and maintaining a good routine from home. However, your team’s overall productivity is doomed to fall. The reason for this is simple – there are one too many distractions at home. These include your employee’s pets and kids, a fridge full of snacks and the freedom to scroll Facebook without anyone seeing..
Lack of equipment
Office jobs don’t tend to have a lot of necessary equipment – usually you are fine with a laptop and a table. This is not quite as simple though.. The personal laptops that your employees own may be very slow and unsuitable for work, their internet speed might be slow and they may not have a proper table to work at.
All of these things add up to more time spent on one task as well as your employees feeling frustrated and uncomfortable (especially if they end up working on the sofa). Besides, some jobs require additional equipment, for instance, accountants and bookkeepers may need a printer, if they are not fully digital with their books.
Enthusiasm about growing the business
It is very hard to stimulate any enthusiasm and motivation within your team digitally. This is usually something that the leader does by keeping up good spirits at the office and reminding the employees of their great work. Working from home means that you will probably only end up having team meetings to discuss work or important updates and won’t have time for any other informal conversations.. It is not impossible, but it is certainly not easy.
All in all, there are definitely some good lessons that working from home has taught us in the last couple of months and we certainly hope these will be remembered. After all, you don’t really need to travel miles just to have an hour long business meeting..
However, returning back to office should be your priority as a business owner. While it can depend on your company’s size, what you do and how you are used to communicating with your team, the absolute majority of businesses will have long-term consequences if they continue working from home.