The coronavirus pandemic was a global catastrophe, which saw millions upon millions of families impacted by the rapid spread of a quiet killer. Governments of nation states around the world acted quickly to protect their citizens as successive variants of the virus continued to wash over the general populace.
In the US, individual states begin to shut down public interaction as early as mid-March 2020, foreshadowing over a year of government-mandated lockdowns and restrictions on gathering. These restrictions had profound impacts on every industry, as non-essential workers were forced to remain at home in many instances.
But technology was quick to respond in the face of a new international struggle; the pace of development and iteration of new communication and collaboration software enabled businesses to institute remote working policies swiftly, where employees could work flexibly from home or other environments without needing to visit the office.
But after pandemic restrictions eased and citizens slowly began to return to society, these flexible and remote working provisions remained in place. The technology was already there, with many businesses already having invested in the equipment necessary to facilitate home working.
As such, the return to the office was slow and phased. But workers now accustomed to the newfound flexibility of a home working arrangement – and enjoying lessened costs with relation to daily commutes – were less inclined to return to the office.
Indeed, flexible working arrangements have proven highly popular amongst the US’ working population. According to recent statistics, 87% of workers afforded the opportunity to work flexibly take the chance to work remotely at least once a week.
The popularity of flexible working has also been reflected in employment arrangement patterns. More businesses are likely to offer flexible working than ever before, as job candidates increasingly seek opportunities with flexibility as a standard arrangement.
As a business, embracing flexible working as a new normal can be a daunting prospect. Despite the wealth of evidence that points to flexible working being an effective, non-disruptive provision that can even improve productivity, businesses are reticent to risk a drop in output. For those willing to take the plunge, how can you properly provide for flexible workers?
The key investment comes in the form of equipment. Employees need the physical equipment necessary to carry out their work at home, from webcams and other peripherals to bespoke technologies and the power cords necessary to use them.
Software is the next concern, with cloud collaboration and ‘telecommuting’ software leading the charge for flexible worker productivity. Investment in whole-office tech solutions enables remote meetings and collaborations to occur, while workers retain devolved control of their own schedule beyond mandated meetings.
Managerial approach must also necessarily change to foster a positive relationship with flexible workers. Certain timescales and requirements do not play as well at home as they do in the office, meaning line managers need a new system of approach for ensuring workers have what they need and meet their quotas.