The human condition is rooted in social connection.
From sitting around the prehistoric campfire to the boardroom table, we get things done when we cooperate and work within a cohesive team. For the vast majority of our collective past, this human connection has taken place face-to-face.
Until the pandemic irrevocably changed everything. Maybe it was coming to some extent, but all of a sudden, the nature of our connections at work (and outside work) changed.
That has lit a fire under the conventions that have dominated the office-based corporate existence for the past hundred years.
You went to the office from 9-5 and in that period your employer “owned” how you spent your time. They told you when to eat, which meetings to attend and sometimes even what you could put on your desk next to your computer. You might not like it, but there was no choice. After the context of the past year, this now all seems somewhat draconian.
Many people hated the necessity of the rat race with its long commutes and sandwiches at the desk, but as working location becomes less of an issue, all sorts of opportunities are opening up. With mental health and wellness rightly near the top of every corporate agenda, maybe companies will see getting remote / blended working right as a golden ticket to attracting the very best people?
Blended working patterns are certain to be the foundation of many people-centric businesses for the next couple of decades. Technology will increasingly offer us more independence whilst simultaneously bringing us closer together. As long as there is a framework of agreed behaviours (such as no-Zoom Friday afternoons) to ensure that this isn’t abused, there is every chance that each employee can find the job and the working culture for them.
The statistics support the fact that remote working will remain a viable option. World Economic Forum research suggested that 98% of employees would “like to have the option of working remotely for the rest of their careers.” From the same research, while 22% might have trouble unplugging after work and a worrying 19% reported feelings of loneliness, there was a whole raft of advantages that outweighed the negatives.
Not every company will take the same approach (Goldman Sachs, for one) and there will be plenty of occupations where office working is essential, but the pandemic has taught everyone that there is always “another way” if there is the willpower to make it happen.
EM Group were working remotely for a large portion of our time before the pandemic came along, and we will certainly continue to do so. Happier employees are more productive for our clients and our task-based work is perfectly easy to manage remotely. We will still get together regularly when restrictions are lifted as that is important for all of us, but we won’t do it unless we all want to. Happily, we get on fantastically, so no issues there!
Essentially, the answer to whether remote working provides enough social connection will vary depending on whom you ask. Some will gravitate towards the buzz of an office, while others will be perfectly happy working with the cat on their lap and the sounds of the birds chirping away to each other in the garden.
The fantastic thing is that soon employees will likely have a choice.
EM can help. Please contact David Howell to discuss further: [email protected]