2020 will be the year of remote working – thanks to COVID-19
This could be a big change for most workers who are used to commuting to their offices and spending eight or more hours with their colleagues before eventually going home.
Like most changes to routine, it will feel unusual and uncomfortable at first but there are potentially big gains to be made from the practice – productively, physically, emotionally and mentally.
Initially companies should rely on their own HR advice and guidance on home working issues but should look to be as flexible and amenable where possible to requests for home working and self-isolation.
This should also include deciding if well-meaning employees are actually too ill to be working even if they are already in situ and they should actually be placed on sick leave and not performing company tasks.
In this week’s budget, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that up to 20% of the UK working population could be off work with COVID-19 at any one time and gave details of a support package worth £7bn for business to combat the outbreak.
This would be made up of various business rate cuts, grants and loans including a new government backed scheme called the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan which would offer loans of up to £1.2m to small businesses.
The government confirmed that they’d reimburse businesses with fewer than 250 employees for statutory sick pay up to 14 days for staff that have to self-isolate beginning from day one as opposed to day four including staff that don’t show any symptoms.
There aren’t any advantages to employees working from home regardless of whether a pandemic has forced them to or not.
Firstly, their commute time is cut to zero – instead of having to fight to get to a station or for a parking space or through traffic jams and roadworks, they can be “at their desk” as soon as they log on to whichever secure portal they’re using to facilitate their work possibly using additional security measures including VPNs.
Many companies already use collaborative, cloud based working solutions such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Trello and Microsoft Office 365 to allow them to work and chat on the same documents, spreadsheets and projects simultaneously.
A lot of businesses have already started moving towards hosting virtual and e-meetings using Skype and Google Hangouts for business which can host up to 100 participants in one session and allows screen sharing and text chat along with multiple users being able to appear on screen at one time.
In itself this could save thousands of pounds in travel, accommodation and hospitality once workers and business get used to operating in this new environment.
There is also a wider societal benefit to reduced travel and traffic through less pollution and emissions although this will take more time to accumulate as one or two days off the road will have negligible effect compared to two weeks or more of self-isolation.
Chris Horner, director of Business Rescue Expert thinks the advantages of remote working will be a revelation for some workers – but will inevitably need a settling in period.
“Most workers will have to adjust to doing their work in the place where they spend most of their time enjoying themselves and relaxing so there’ll have to be some initial adjustment and recalibration.
“Whenever our staff work from home, they’ve told us they use or create a home office for themselves, putting their tablets or laptops on the dining room table rather than trying to work from the couch.
“Anecdotally, they also tend to wear the same clothes they would on a regular work day to remind themselves that it’s not a day off, and while they might listen to music and podcasts while they work, the TV always remains off, even if it’s out of their sightline.”
“Any COVID-19 isolation period may present additional challenges for home working if schools are closed or they have older family members living with them that need extra care but most people will be able to find and strike a successful balance between home-work and homework.”
Most home workers will probably have more success than Professor Robert Kelly, who is now better known as the BBC dad following his adorable children’s efforts to disrupt his live TV interview in 2017.
The COVID-19 coronavirus is going to be a once-in-a-generation challenge for many businesses and employees and could cause hardship and problems for even the most ordinarily well-ran and profitable small businesses.
If you’re worried about your working life being disrupted critically, get in touch with us.
Our team of experienced advisors are always available to talk through your situation and offer efficient, effective and appropriate options to manage any temporary issues and help your business survive, no matter what challenges it’s facing.