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The working from home revolution: How to make it work for your business

21/09/2020

The Covid-19 crisis has fundamentally changed the way we live, and not just the way we approach health and illness. The pandemic has seen a dramatic shift towards the acceptance of home working, something which many organisations had shied away from before 2020. At the start of July, 30% of adults in the UK were exclusively working from home. And now that restrictions have been lifted and employers have been encouraged to facilitate a safe return to the office, the question is whether people will want to go back to the traditional 9-5, office-based work environment. For many in the marketing, digital and communications space, the answer is no. So how can organisations adapt to this new way of working and turn working from home into a business benefit?

Understanding the benefits of working from home

Home and remote working come with obvious rewards for employees. From the elimination of commute time and stress to a better work-life balance and improved inclusivity and access to roles, there are huge incentives for many professionals to spend more time working from home. Our 2020 Market and Salary Report revealed that most people work from home to save commuting time or to work more productively, and only 21% of employees want to return to their office five days a week in a post-pandemic world. But what about the business benefits of home and remote working?

Research from Harvard Business School has shown that, contrary to the fears of some managers, remote working can actually improve productivity. This is echoed in a Stanford study which also showed remote workers take fewer sick days. Then there’s the obvious cost savings that come with remote teams. Fewer people in the office can lead to more efficient workspace usage, and even the ability to downsize or eschew office space entirely.

Looking at specific sectors, there are compelling reasons why people will want to continue working from home. Communications professionals can enjoy more uninterrupted and productive writing time, responding to situations as and when they arise without the restrictions of traditional office hours. The argument becomes even stronger for digital professionals, who are used to working online and with cloud-based systems. Marketers, meanwhile, can adopt new communications technologies to quickly and unobtrusively communicate across teams. Content marketers and copywriters may thrive on the peace and quiet homeworking provides to enable them to produce creative work, while search engine marketers can spend less time commuting and more time building campaigns.

Learning to effectively lead remote teams

A key challenge for employers moving forward will be understanding how to make work truly flexible for all whilst managing productivity and retaining a sense of company culture. In a workplace where teams may not all be in the office at one time, it’s critical that managers embrace technology and encourage communication, collaboration and community, as well as the high standards of work that are always expected. This is a tough ask for heads of department and managers who will need to be adaptable whilst keeping a close eye on staff performance and results. Regular scheduled one-to-one, team and whole company meetings are key in managing both performance and culture. Meanwhile, objective setting, training and development should all continue as normal, ensuring managers can track performance as well as giving employees a sense of career support.

Measuring metrics when working remotely

One of the most commonly-cited concerns managers have about remote working is a loss of productivity. In fact, research shows that managers who can’t physically see their team members can struggle to trust that they are working.

For those in the marketing, communications and PR space, this can be particularly pronounced. These disciplines are typically collaborative and team-based, with frequent communication required and cross-collaboration occurring on a daily basis. Savvy marketing managers will be able to bring this into the online domain. For a start, teams should be encouraged to use cloud-based work collaboration tools, such as Trello, Slack and Microsoft Teams, as well as the abundance of instant chat and video calling software to mimic the in-office experience. Perhaps more importantly, business leaders need to be acutely aware of KPIs, goals and personal objectives.

Whether it’s tracking social media engagement, PPC click-through rates or the SEO performance of keywords, there are plenty of different metrics digital marketing managers should be paying close attention to. These can help to indicate not only the efficacy of the marketing strategy, but also the productivity and efforts of marketing professionals working from home.

From cities to villages: Will remote working change where we live?

The shift towards flexible and remote working has seen significant changes in the marketing recruitment world. Candidates are now expecting employers to offer home working opportunities, while clients have access to more professionals than ever as their potential talent pools open up beyond the commuter parameters that existed before Covid-19. Research suggests that 1.6 million Londoners worked from outside the city during lockdown, with a quarter of Londoners wanting to continue working outside the city even as lockdown restrictions ease.

For many office-based workers in the marketing, digital and communications fields, online, home-based working is entirely feasible long-term, which is leading to many in the industry considering a move further afield. The city centre may no longer be the golden ticket to a high-powered role. Instead, we can expect to see an exodus to commuter towns and even villages, as organisations embrace flexible options that may see teams spend more of their time at home than in the workplace.

Let EMR help you build your remote team

The future of the modern workplace will undoubtedly feature home working. Make sure you’re best placed to navigate it by staffing your team with the industry’s best marketing, digital and communications professionals. We have more than 25 years’ experience in sourcing exceptional candidates and have a deep understanding of our markets.

Whether you’re looking for permanent and interim talent or executive-level permanent employees, we can help. Contact us to hear from a member of our team or register a vacancy to get started.

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