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Best Employers: How working from home can work for your people - and for your business

PUBLISHED: 09:48 06 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:54 05 June 2020

Home working has many benefits - but can be challenging for parents with children at home   Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Home working has many benefits - but can be challenging for parents with children at home Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Coronavirus and lockdown have altered how we work - but for Best Employers, remote working is an opportunity as much as a change.

The Best Employers Eastern Region programme is helping businesses with a free employee engagement surveyThe Best Employers Eastern Region programme is helping businesses with a free employee engagement survey

Before Covid-19 forced business to move to remote working, one of the big issues with working from home centred on trust and productivity: would staff really put in the hours? Could the work really be up to standard?

“It’s proved to be a non-issue,” says Lynn Walters of recruitment specialists Pure. “Most people are giving more than is expected. The companies we work with are seeing productivity and efficiency rising.”

The people facing the greatest challenge tend to be those with caring responsibilities – principally parents trying to combine a day’s work with home schooling or looking after pre-school children. This has produced a genuinely flexible approach to when people work, with some taking time out in the middle of the day but making it up in the evenings or weekends.

“The difficulty with that is there’s little time for them to look after themselves, because they’re always on the go,” Lynn warns. “It’s vital that people do take time out or it simply won’t be sustainable.”

Working at home means more time with the family - but can leave working parents with little time to look after themselves.   Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoWorking at home means more time with the family - but can leave working parents with little time to look after themselves. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rise of the video call

“At the beginning, we were playing Zoom and Teams bingo, the same as everyone else,” says Sharon Allen of the Arthur Rank Hospice in Cambridge. “The difference video conferencing is making is huge. Before this, staff may have driven for two hours for a one-hour meeting, then two hours back – now it’s a Zoom call.”

“It’s almost as if we were waiting for the excuse to embrace the technology,” says Ian White of Beckett Investment Management. He has found that video meetings are more focused – even sales ones. “Many of our consultants can be just as effective without getting in the car,” he adds.

Regular contact - focusing on the individual rather than the task - is crucial to make home-working staff feel valued and motivated    Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoRegular contact - focusing on the individual rather than the task - is crucial to make home-working staff feel valued and motivated Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Compared with travelling to off-site meetings, video conferencing offers huge savings in time, as well as in travel costs. “Even when lockdown eases, we’re not going to go back to having lots of people driving a long way for meetings,” concludes Sharon Allen.

Team work does work

“The danger of remote working is getting too task focused – with managers concentrating on the job and forgetting to prioritise the people,” says Lynn. “Communication needs to be timely and it needs to be personal so employees feel valued.”

Lynn Walters of PureLynn Walters of Pure

It’s also important to appreciate and promote the importance of the team. “There’s strong allegiance within our teams with people supporting each other,” says Sharon Allen. “A lot of our teams now have virtual coffee breaks or lunches together. People wobble in different ways so need the team to help support them.”

Ian agrees: “Everyone has good days and bad days. If you’re having a good day, help someone having a bad day.”

Ready to return?

Ian White of Beckett Investment ManagmentIan White of Beckett Investment Managment

We conducted a poll on attitudes to returning to the old way of doing business. Of the 657 people who voted, the largest proportion – 39pc – said they would like to work from home for half the time. However, almost as many (35pc) said they would prefer to continue working from home 100pc of the time. A relatively small 16pc wanted to return to full-time office-based operation, with just 10pc saying their choice was to be mostly office-based, working from home for a quarter of their time.

“When this started a lot of people were pretty disciplined about taking care of themselves – doing the work but taking their exercise breaks, getting away from the screen,” says Lynn Walters of Pure. “As it progresses, some people are finding it harder to do that – there are more distractions, or they’re just working more.”

In either case, it means the challenge facing businesses is to focus on the wellbeing of the employees – particularly if they continue to work remotely for most or part of their week.

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“This crisis emphasises the need to be a good employer. If a firm isn’t already a Best Employer, this should kick-start their journey,” concludes Ian White of Beckett Investment Management. “If an organisation is struggling, it will need stronger leadership. Strong leadership comes from caring for your employees.”

To learn how the Best Employers Eastern Region programme can help your business – and to take advantage of the free employee engagement survey – click here.

The Best Employers Eastern Region Partners

Pure

Pure supports the growth of organisations in the Eastern region through the recruitment and development of highly engaged employees, while also helping candidates at each stage of their career.

Pure is the professional recruitment company for the East of England, specialising in Accountancy, Human Resources, Technology, Marketing & Digital and Professional Office roles. We recruit across all levels from short term temporary cover to longer term contracts and permanent recruitment. Pure Executive is dedicated to board level appointments.

From four offices located across the Eastern region, we have a comprehensive understanding of local employment trends as well as within our specialist sectors. For more information, click here.

Eras

Eras ltd are a founder of The Best Employers Initiative and are the authors and owners of the online survey and psychometric platform. We have been at the cutting-edge of psychometric products and consultancy for over three decades. Our user-friendliness, affordability and commitment to our customers has seen organisations of all sizes right across the world benefit from the wealth of our expertise. Companies ranging from large multinationals to independent consultants (many household names among them), see Eras Ltd as their first choice for all their assessment needs. For more information, click here.

Birketts

Birketts is a full service, top 100 UK law firm, based in the East of England, with offices in Cambridge, Chelmsford, Ipswich and Norwich. With a rich heritage spanning over 150 years we’ve built an enviable track record advising businesses, institutions and individuals in the UK and internationally.

We are large enough to provide specialist expertise in most areas of the law at a standard that is frequently compared with major City firms but not at the expense of maintaining a personal and tailored service. We are flexible about everything except our reputation for maintaining the highest professional and ethical standards. If you think that Birketts is the right choice for you, then get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. For more information, click here.

Archant

Archant is a privately-owned media company with market-leading media brands that inspire communities around geographical locations and specialist interests in the UK and internationally. It inspires communities by being the best media brand at informing, educating and entertaining target consumers in each community it serves.

It is the fifth largest regional newspaper publisher, with titles including the Eastern Daily Press and East Anglian Daily Times, and the largest publisher of regional and local lifestyle magazines and specialist magazine titles in the UK.

It also owns a broad portfolio of digital media assets and marketing services in Norwich and a variety of mobile apps. It also recently launched the pop-up national newspaper The New European.

The company, which was founded in 1845, has its roots in Norwich, and services advertisers by building powerful and successful commercial solutions to effectively engage with its communities. For more information, click here.


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