Businesses have adapted to remote working to protect staff and to help curb infection rates during the pandemic. The world changed almost overnight and Zoom and Teams meetings soon became the norm, so it comes as no surprise that returning to “normality” would present some challenges.
Many businesses are now opting for a gradual transition; creating a flexible, hybrid option for employees to work both in the office and remotely, whilst others are still working from home for the foreseeable. But will we see a mass return to the office in 2022?
In this blog, we discuss the impact remote working has had on team culture and what the future may hold.
Impact of remote working
There were undoubtedly perks to working remotely during the pandemic, but arguably, this came at a cost to the mental health and well-being of some employees.
The upside was evident very quickly with staff able to spend more time with their families. Avoiding a lengthy commute was another real advantage for many and meant that the hours spent ordinarily travelling to and from work could be more productively used working at home. People saved money on transport, we saw lower fuel emissions which had a positive impact on the environment, and the roads were clear and without much traffic when you did need to travel somewhere.
On the other hand, though, we know that many people have struggled with feelings of isolation working in a lone environment, with considerably less contact with colleagues and at a time when seeing family and friends was not permitted. For those living on their own during the crisis, this problem was compounded, and many people have admitted to struggling with anxiety and depression.
If you have been used to working in a team, suddenly working on your own is a big change. It is undoubtedly harder to work collaboratively online, although the technology is now there to support this. Generating ideas as a team (particularly in more creative roles) and having someone nearby to check something you’re working on, or to chat through a project, is something we perhaps took for granted working in a team environment.
The changes to working life that we have witnessed over the last 18 months or more have impacted team culture. In some cases, this has been largely positive with increased productivity and an improved work/life balance. In other cases, people have struggled working in isolation, team leaders have found managing teams remotely highly challenging, and communication generally has suffered.
So, where do we go from here?
Hybrid working - The new normal
We are seeing many businesses move to a hybrid working model; a mix of remote and office working that supports a gradual and more flexible return to work “normality”.
Hybrid working is allowing employees to have the best of both worlds. It is viewed by many as the preferable way to work as it allows for teams to come together in person whilst offering the benefits and productivity that remote working provides.
Out with the old and in with the new - Office working
Nonetheless, many businesses are choosing to move staff back into the office full-time. Business owners and managers often admit to feeling more in control of teams when they are physically present in the building. Plus, that building is costing the business money each month and so there is a desire to use it and get teams back in.
There is still a need to remain vigilant in the office and distancing, as well as mask wearing when away from your desk, continues to be the norm. So, whilst teams are together in the office and trying to get back to how things were, it still doesn’t feel like life pre-Covid. Indeed, things can feel quite disjointed even with staff in the office. But managing a team that is physically there, in the room, is so much easier for many businesses, where systems and processes have been built, sometimes over generations, to service teams that are ‘in the office’.
So what’s the best option?
It is certain that the pandemic has opened up new ideas to how we work as a team, and whilst the new-found flexibility has benefited employees, there has been a shift in how teams work and how they are managed remotely.
The new technology launched to aid hybrid and remote working has made it easier than ever to stay connected on one level and has provided the opportunity for businesses to occupy smaller office spaces or give up the lease on their commercial buildings altogether as they are no longer required. On the other hand, the lack of face-to-face time with colleagues (and customers and other stakeholders) has changed the culture of how we interact and work together.
The truth is, there is no set answer to the most beneficial way to work as it comes down to the individual needs of each business and individual. But as we move into a world with less restrictions it’s good to weigh up the pros and cons of all environments to keep your business booming, your people safe, and above all to keep the team culture healthy and productive.
At Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce, we work with businesses, small and large, to nurture connections within our ever-expanding member network, enabling companies to grow locally, regionally, and globally. Contact us for help and advice about team culture and how to navigate remote, office and hybrid working. Visit Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce (chamber-business.com) or call us on 01582 522 448.