Rachel Gawley, CTO, Whitespace

Woman typing on laptop, flexible working, gender biasThe COVID-19 crisis has created a global uncertainty within the workplace, leaving many employees concerned about what this might mean for their jobs in the future.

In April, it was expected that one in four employers would make redundancies within their business, and in May after the UK’s furlough scheme was put in place, HMRC reported that 6.3 million people had been temporarily laid off by 800,000 companies. Despite these unsettling times, the current pandemic could be a gateway to a more flexible future which will unlock a myriad of opportunities for employees at work.

Since the majority of organisations have been forced to work from home, it has been essential for employers to put their trust in all of their staff. As a result of this, there has been an increase in employee empowerment, motivation and drive to succeed. Also, with significantly less travel time, many employees have had the flexibility to work wherever and whenever to suit their lifestyle at home. This allows employees to be more efficient with their time, therefore suggesting that remote working may be the way forward and that offices are a thing of the past. With another wave of mass redundancies expected soon, this may highlight an individual’s ability to transfer their skills into various industries, offering them different career pathways.

Optimising flexible working at home

Businesses have been accessing the positive impact of remote working with the possibility of implementing it as a long term solution. Remote working has allowed employees to optimise their workload due to the flexibility of working from home. Firstly, giving employees more freedom such as less working days and hours will not only increase efficiency and productivity, but it will also increase employee morale. It will give employees the flexibility to manage their workload in a way that’s most efficient for them, in terms of their chosen lifestyle, as well as the feeling of being trusted by their employer boosting their morale. Recent research suggests that working from home makes employees 35-40% more productive, resulting in a 21% increase in profitability. Also in normal pandemic-free times, 82% of remote workers have a reduced stress level due to feelings of gratitude, inducing positivity in the workplace.

Transforming employees’ work ethic and shifting behaviours in the workforce will help to re-connect them to the business, keeping them motivated with their work and invested in the company’s goals. In addition to this, removing workplace politics and noise interruptions in the office will increase employees performance as the number of distractions will be reduced. With remote working employees will have more time for their social life, focusing on their families and personal interests, as well as improving their general mental health.

Working anywhere and everywhere

Remote working eliminates the barrier of being limited to job opportunities based on geographic locations. This enables employees to be adventurous with their career choices and more ambitious with job applications. In turn, it also enables employers to hire a more diverse, talented workforce, to bring in a wider range of skills into the workplace. Reducing the need to travel and commute not only allows employees to apply for jobs based in any location, but it also reduces stress and unneeded costs, with the average individual saving 13% more as a result of working from home.

In addition to this, remote working opens the possibility of travelling the world whilst working, giving individuals the opportunity to explore around the world without the worries of having to take time off work or not completing their job well. Working abroad acts as a gateway to network and meet new people, giving individuals an opportunity to escape and start a new adventure. With scenic views, a new culture and a relaxing ambience, working abroad can be the perfect way to maximise productivity and have a fresh, positive attitude to work.

Introducing AI and programming to the remote workforce

Finally, artificial intelligence and programming will positively impact remote working and productivity by providing a portal of new opportunities for employees. Workers will be able to utilise this advanced technology to manage and accelerate the time spent on complex tasks. One example of this is AI’s ability to analyse data and present findings in a more simplistic form. This level of intelligence will allow jobs to run more smoothly which will increase efficiency in the workplace.

There is a concern that robots and artificial intelligence oppose a threat to jobs, however, they will actually replace tasks. For example, AI is significantly quicker than humans at analysing calls, data, completing market research and sales calls. This means these tasks will be completed at a more rapid pace, allowing employees to utilise this information to be more efficient and better at other tasks. Therefore, employees can use their skills more wisely on bigger tasks, or even encourage employees to diversify their jobs and branch out to new occupancies, developing a range of new skills.

With the myriad of benefits surrounding remote working, implementing it permanently into the workplace seems like the perfect long term solution. From a happier, more motivated workplace to the flexibility it offers employees. Remote working will act as a gateway to a more productive, efficient workplace as well as significantly increasing employees mental health

Rachel GawleyAbout the author

Dr Rachel Gawley is Chief Technology Officer of Whitespace and Programme Director of the Emergent Alliance. She has over 15 years’ hands on experience with technology and software engineering working in startups, academia and the big four. Her focus is on emerging technologies and mobile solutions. She is a technology leader experienced in building and nurturing teams to create meaningful solutions to complex problems. Her previous roles include CTO of a MedTech company, head of R&D focused on mobile tech, Research Fellow, and most recently leading the creation of a corporate venturing process in a technology consulting company.

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