Over the past few months, the social housing sector, along with the rest of the world, has had to adapt to various forms of remote work and distance learning. We’ve all had to get used to only ever seeing each other's faces through a tiny screen – miniature windows into your colleague’s lives.
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This sudden shift has forced radical and unprecedented changes to the way we work across both internal and external operations. For leaders of organisations, it’s a critical turning point in digital transformation – the choices we make now will underpin the future state for years to come. And it’s essential that these choices are reinforced by a cultural mindset for change.
Whilst you may know how your own organisation is handling the situation, we wanted to understand the impacts of COVID-19 at a broader scale. Through the course of April, we asked professionals across the social housing sector, from all departments and seniority levels, to share their thoughts on the current situation and their experience so far. Whilst we don't have a crystal ball, we can start to think about what the future holds based on our findings...
How do people feel about remote working?
We were pleased to find that the majority of respondents had worked remotely at some point, pre-COVID. This makes sense – there’s been a gradual increase in remote work culture over the past few years, with the amount of people who work remotely at least once per week growing by 400% since 2010.
There’s a big difference between casual remote work and permanent remote work, though. 94% of people surveyed, as of May 2020, were working from home indefinitely. Things like lack of space, technical issues and sharing the house with new workmates (generally under the age of ten and/or of the four-legged variety) were frequently cited as causing productivity problems.
The results were tight when asked which was preferred between working remotely and working from an office. Working from an office just pipped it at 54%. The biggest reason, by quite a margin, was down to enjoying interactions with colleagues. Which makes sense, given that usually we spend more of our waking hours at work than at home – it’s natural we’ve built connections with team members. Plus, plenty of studies have shown we’re happier and more productive when we’ve got strong work relationships.
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Ironically, though, some of the same reasons came up as both pros and cons to working remotely vs. working in an office. Things like better work/life balance are contradicted by a poor separation between work/home life. Less distractions for some can mean huge distractions for others – depending on your environment and your job role, these factors can easily switch places. Does no commute overrule the benefits of better communication?
For many organisations, understanding the individual circumstances for each employee will be key in deciding the direction you’ll head towards between office and remote-based working, once the situation permits. There’s unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all, meaning you’ll need to find a balance. Dedicated ‘work-from-home’ days and mandatory ‘office-based’ days could be an option, or a hot-desk set-up to let employees decide what works for them.
One of the key findings, though, was that 91% of people would like more flexibility to work remotely once social distancing measures are eased. So even though people might prefer working from an office overall, there’s still a strong case for bringing in elements of remote working. You’ll just need to factor in how to solve some of the biggest challenges.
Want to see what else we found out? Take a look at our mini report you can download here!