GUEST COLUMN: Joss Clark, founder Verbacom, on getting Remote to Work

Throughout the pandemic, remote work became the day to day of everybody’s lives with a large majority of the world’s workforce logging in from their living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and for the luckiest, their home offices.

As a workforce, we demonstrated that mass remote work is possible and can be achieved but now it’s time for frank, honest conversations about its longevity for both employees and employers.

At the start of the pandemic, with everyone being thrust into the work from home environment, it was fun seeing into your colleagues’ homes, almost like daytime television.

We all virtually jumped around colleagues, clients and friends’ living rooms, nosing about their gardens and meeting their families, it may have lacked the professionalism for day-to-day business, but it was ok. At the time we were all in the same boat, everyone understood and was going through the same experiences.

However as the pandemic stretched on, the realisation of remote meetings was becoming marred by bad audio, bad internet connections, bad lighting, terrible camera quality with even worse camera angles. It’s these issues (amongst a whole host of health, wellbeing and satisfaction issues) that need addressing if remote work is to survive. They need addressing before these remote niggles start growing into frustrations as offices open up. When colleagues come back into offices and normal ‘work life’ starts returning, people will be less forgiving on these aforementioned issues.

Remote working shouldn’t be a straightforward binary choice for every employer or employee. Employers can only control so much of a workspace within a home and own the responsibility to ensure a workspace is safe, and we are kept healthy whilst working. Do you have all the tools necessary to complete your work? Employees need to be honest, is your home capable of this?

Some employees will need to accept their homes might not be suitable for a true remote workspace, whether that’s the space required, collaboration with other colleagues in the job role or even a lack of a good internet connection that means working from home won’t really work as a long-term solution. Working from a kitchen counter isn’t a long-term post-pandemic option. Employers need to be frank and honest about the requirements (and the reasons why) when it comes to remote working to ensure a remote workforce can successfully flourish on a level playing field with office workers both in the best interests of employees and employer.

The pandemic proved successful (in the most part) that remote work can work when everybody is working from home but as the hybrid workforce develops new challenges, problems and frictions will arise amongst employee to management relationships but also employee to employee relationships. If half the team are in the office, perhaps in a kitted-out collaboration space whilst one or two remote workers are working from home with poor microphone quality, home life interactions or a bad internet connection it will slowly lead to frustrations and annoyance amongst groups that will only grow.

These challenges are easily solvable, but I think the answer lies in a new industry built up to support remote workers properly, almost in the same way an office building has multiple support departments to keep the building going, remote workers will also need to tap into these resources to keep their home workspace running, maximising the capabilities and benefits of remote workers.

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