COVID: Working from home is not for everyone

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Many bosses believe company culture can only be built only in an office environment and expect most staff to be working back in the office after the pandemic ends.

A new survey of C-suite executives found 79 per cent of respondents expected that after the pandemic most of their staff would be working in the office most days of the week.

That is despite another survey targeting employees that found 78 per cent of people enjoyed working from home.

Of the 153 business leaders surveyed, from a mix of industries and sizes, 72 per cent believed that building company culture was most effective in an office environment; and 73 per cent said managing staff performance was most effective through face-to-face contact.

Experts said flexible working was here to stay, and would even increase in the future, but it was dependent on the type of work being done and what kind of meetings were taking place.

According to recent surveys, roles that were deemed as effective, or more effective, from home were finance, legal and IT. Jobs in areas such as operations, management and HR were less productive.

It’s very easy to deal with existing customers and clients on Zoom … but when you are cold calling or trying to generate new business that’s very tricky.

From the survey as well as discussions with senior business leaders and board members, found that while there were positive takeaways from staff working remotely en masse, there were three main sticking points for C-suite executives.

The first was not being able to nurture company culture effectively.

“How do you build a company culture in an environment where you haven’t got people in the office? It’s quite challenging if not impossible.

“Even if you think about new graduates coming into a business for the first time … there were a whole range of graduates coming from a range of industries that joined in February this year. They had about four to five weeks of experience and then have gone home and they just aren’t being brought in the culture of that organisation.”

The second major hurdle that had become evident during the pandemic was the ability to generate new business.

It’s very easy to deal with existing customers and clients on Zoom because you have a good, deep relationship, but when you are cold calling or trying to generate new business that’s very tricky.

And the third major challenge of a remote working environment identified by business leaders was the lack of observational learning.

CEO’s of today would not be there if they did not have the learnings over long periods in an office situation. And that’s just simple things like being in meetings with people, watching how they interact and deal with problems or how they change plans working through a development,

Even in the past few weeks as people returned to the office employers had witnessed how people bumping into each other in the hallway had generated new ideas and better business outcomes.

“You just don’t get that experience through Zoom, Google or Microsoft Teams or whatever you are using.”

The survey was anonymous and not all C-suite executives participated, but most of the big-name tenants had participated.


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