The pandemic has forced much of the UK workforce move out of the physical office as they were mandated to ‘stay home’, and whilst there have been intermittent lockdown-free periods over the last year, many companies have still opted to keep their employees working from home.
HP Inc. is one of these companies. After completing their virtual recruitment process, I joined HP as an intern in July. Since then I’ve been working remotely from my dining room table in Reading having, never set foot in a HP office.
With this being my first full-time job, I didn’t have to make the adaptations that other office workers did. Remote working is all I’ve known and my experience of it is wholly positive.
Transferring opportunities to the virtual space
There are distinct challenges and benefits to working remotely. Building working relationships is not as easy through a computer screen as it is in person. According to a survey from Know Your Team, fostering a sense of connection without a shared location was considered the most difficult part of being a remote manager. To effectively combat this, employers need to find a way to replicate the opportunities for informal conversations that would normally take place in the office.
Networking is especially important at the start of a career, and in a remote environment greater effort is needed to make-up for the organic networking opportunities available in an office. However, with the right support from employers it still can be done effectively. A few months into my internship, I was invited to join HP’s mentorship programme where I regularly meet with my mentor to network and learn more about a different side of the business. This has been invaluable for my professional development and has led me to connect with more colleagues from across the business. Having a formalised platform for mentoring and networking is a great best practise example of what companies can do to help facilitate remote workers, especially young professionals.
So remote working can replicate many of the important aspects of working in an office, but what else does it offer? Working from home has provided me with a more comfortable work-life balance, and more sleep. An 8AM alarm is a luxury that few Reading-London commuters are accustomed to, but for me it’s the norm. The absence of a commute into London is not only better for my sleep schedule but provides me with more free time in the evenings and is lighter on my wallet.
From an employee’s perspective, remote working seems obvious – so what about for the employer? In the midst of a global pandemic the importance of employee wellbeing has heightened and companies like HP, Johnson & Johnson and Facebook have opted to keep their workforce remote where possible. In May last year, Twitter announced that its employees would permanently have the option of working from home, even once offices were reopened. It’s important to also note that there are large cost savings for businesses who downsize or step-away from having office space entirely, both in terms of office rental fees and office running costs. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that a typical employer can save £8,000 (US$11,000) for every employee that works from home half of the time.
But more than just saving employers and employees money, working from home can improve employee productivity. There is a growing body of research which suggests that home workers are more efficient in their jobs than their office based counterparts. According to a survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, 75% of home workers reported that on individual tasks their productivity had stayed the same or had improved compared to what it was in the office.
The increased efficiency of home-workers compared to office-workers is also supported by research conducted by Prodoscore in March-April 2020. Over 100 million data points from over 30,000 workers were evaluated, and results showed a 47% year-on-year rise in employee productivity which they attribute to the large increase in home working.
As a result of COVID-19, in the future we’re likely to see more and more companies offering and encouraging remote working. With the benefits of remote working to both employers and employees so clear, young people who will soon be entering the workforce should be enthused by the prospect of widespread remote working.
With the benefits of remote working to both employers and employees so clear, young people who will soon be entering the workforce should be enthused by the prospect of widespread remote working
Given the clear benefits to my savings and work-life balance, flexible remote working policies will without doubt be a key factor when I consider future jobs. Whilst young people typically prefer working in an office and the social element that comes with that, some aspects of this can still be emulated in a virtual environment. When managed well by a company, remote working suits both the employer and employee, whether entry-level or established professional. As a young person entering the world of work for the first time, working from home isn’t a ‘new normal’ – it’s all I have known, and I look at the prospect of the future of widespread remote working with the knowledge that it suits me and other young people like me.
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