As we move beyond the immediate COVID-19 crisis and begin to plan for life and business beyond the pandemic, it’s important that businesses of all sizes are equipped with the right insights to help them plan for the future. You will have no doubt heard many business leaders and politicians reference the new normal. But what exactly does that mean for businesses and their employees?
In essence the new normal is recognition that as a society, we will not be able to return to the old ways of going about our daily lives and business for the foreseeable future. For businesses, it means adapting and innovating to ensure both sustainability and growth. That’s a massive challenge, but one that many UK businesses are already rising to.
Employees are the backbone of all businesses and it’s worth taking into account their experience of COVID-19 and the enforced remote working period when planning for the next phase. As a company, Citrix is very interested in the employee experience, both for ourselves and our customers and we wanted to get better insights on how the pandemic has changed the way we all think about work. For that reason, we commissioned research to provide us with some answers. The results were very interesting and provide valuable pointers for business planning for their post-pandemic operations.
One of the standout findings of our research which has the potential to have the most significant impact on the way we operate our businesses in the future is a strong desire amongst employees to work from home more often. 45 percent of UK survey respondents indicated this, while at the same time, 34 percent stated they would like to see more flexible work models, allowing them to easily switch between the office and remote working.
Of course, there are some businesses, such as retail, for which remote working is not an option ‘ at least for the majority of employees in that sector. At the same time, many employers will have discovered for themselves that remote working is viable, even though they may not have thought it would be right for their business prior to the pandemic. The knowledge that remote working can work well should provide employers with both comfort and some degree of excitement as embracing it on a longer-term basis could open-up new possibilities for their business. The key to getting this right and making the most of the possibilities that remote work has to offer is ensuring your business has the right technology to enable employees to work from home effectively and productively.
The degree to which the mindset of employees has shifted towards remote and flexible working since the onset of COVID-19 in the UK and enforced remote working since March is also reflected in our research. Prior to March, those surveyed used to work from home five days per month on average. 43 percent of those polled believe that in the future, flexible work models and remote work will result in a more digital corporate culture. Two-thirds now consider the future office to be mainly a location for meeting colleagues and customers in person.
It’s likely that we are going to see the retention of large-scale remote working beyond the immediate COVID-19 crisis as employers have seen that it can work and employees support it. Also, on a practical level, remote work will be necessary, at least for the immediate future, as public transport systems in the UK’s major cities will be unable to cope with pre-pandemic passenger numbers while social distancing measures remain in force.
Clearly though, businesses also need to think about and plan for their employees return to the office. Attitudes of employees towards this were also examined in our survey, with the main findings being that a new office culture and technologies are required, before employees will feel comfortable returning to the office. For example, 71 percent of those surveyed expressed concerns about coworking and hot-desking concepts. At the same time, 63 percent of polled UK office workers consider working from home, if equipped with the proper technology, on par with working in an office. From a technology perspective, what businesses should be aiming for is to equip employees with the necessary technologies that empower them to productively and securely work from anywhere.
One interesting and positive outcome of enforced remote work is the increase in levels of trust between employers and employees. The abrupt switch to remote work has required trust on both sides. A quarter of those surveyed now hope that this strengthened trust and increased autonomy will be maintained even after the crisis. In general, employees are optimistic that companies will meet these expectations in the time to come. Almost two thirds of those polled think that there will be a better understanding of the human factor in the workplace, and 47 percent agree that the coronavirus crisis experience will help soften established business hierarchies.
As businesses plan for the second half of this year, with at least a little more clarity that we’ve had since the early months of 2020, it will be important to remain agile and innovative in managing the new normal. Factoring-in the insights and attitudes of employees towards the way we work and the workplace is an important part of ensuring success.