In 2020, the world as we know it was turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic. Every aspect of our lives was changed, including our professional work lives. Going into the office was no longer a viable option, meaning everyone who could, was asked to work from home (WFH). As lockdown restrictions have eased and people have had the chance to return to their “normal” lives, workers have noticed a strong difference in their work ethics based on where they’re located.
Every industry suffered as a result of the pandemic, but each to a different extent. Sleepstandards.com, a site dedicated to giving impartial, practical advice to its consumers on how to improve their sleeping habits, published its survey’s findings on how working from home impacted US employees across a variety of industries.
When questioned about their degree of productivity, only 31% of employees found they worked better from home, whilst 66% said their job satisfaction was higher when working in the office. The survey found that 11% of employees did not enjoy working from the office as much, yet found themselves to be more productive than when working from home.
Additionally, both employees who preferred working from home and those who preferred working from the office found distractions to be a big problem with their degree of productivity. While 54% have higher productivity thanks to fewer distractions at their offline office, 58% are less productive due to more distractions at their physical workplace. 44% of employees found they were able to better communicate with their co-workers and therefore be more productive when working in the office.
Communication, and lack thereof when working from home, is a factor many companies began to realise was affecting the efficiency of its employees.
Importance of communication
Many companies were not prepared for the pandemic at all, with no previous WFH alternative. This was not the case for everyone. TickSmith, a cloud-based Enterprise Data Web Store platform that enables exchanges and financial institutions to monetise their data, were one of the exceptions.
When speaking to Brette Bao of Medium.com about the company’s preparation for WFH, TickSmith’s CEO and Co-Founder, Francis Wenzel, said “Before the pandemic, we already had a work from home policy where employees could work from home on certain days of the week and all the tools were in place to do so securely and efficiently. Our Montreal headquarters remains and is accessible, but we offered all employees to continue working from home if they choose to.”
When asked about how the company had to adapt to the pandemic’s limitations, Wenzel brought up the issue of communication: “The biggest difference is how we do things, like conducting meetings with clients and how internal teamwork became digital. For example, our sales team used to interact with potential clients through display booths at trade conferences. So how do you establish a connection now that you can’t meet people in person and shake their hands? Instead of exchanging business cards, we had to find a new way to reach out to our market and forge new relationships.”
However, the struggles of communication appeared to only be an initial set back, as he said discussions were not slowed down “and even possibly accelerated” once the shock of what was happening globally had passed, especially since “many enterprise companies require a quick, low-code set-up to improve their current infrastructure in order to meet the demands of the digital era.
Wenzel concluded by saying, “It [the pandemic] has reinforced my belief that humans can adapt to a lot of situations. We can live through a lot of new normals. We’re currently adapting to this situation and we’ll get through it. In the meantime, we have the technology and the tools to enable WFH, but some people lack the conviction that it works. The pandemic has proven that it can work, and society will be changed forever.”
Looking to the future
So what does the future hold for employees: a return to the office or working from home? Banks too, showed they were able to adapt to covid-19 restrictions, with many stating they were considering a permanent move to remote working as they believed they were still able to provide a good service to their customers despite the lack of an office environment. However, during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, Citigroup’s chief executive, Michael Corbat, acknowledged many of his staff had been juggling workloads, home-schooling children, taking care of family members or even continuing to go into the office, resulting in them being given a day off work. With many employees across the globe facing similar tasks when WFH, it is of little surprise that nearly 66% of employees in sleepstandard’s survey said they would not want to return to it after experiencing the office again.
Whilst companies have shown that they can still be productive with remote working, employee satisfaction is shown to be significantly higher when able to leave the house to work, and this is unlikely to change unless better means of communication are introduced.