The Covid-19 pandemic has normalised working from home. Whether it’s JP Morgan, the linen wholesaler buried in the back of an industrial estate or a family solicitor on the high street, many companies have seen home working as a lifeline to stay afloat during the pandemic’s economic drought.

Employees have got used to it, managers have got used to it, business owners have got used to it. It might not be ideal for a lot of businesses and is any probably viewed as a sticking plaster by many. But on the other side, many will have seen how it can be advantageous for certain tasks, such as those which require deep concentration or privacy due to the sensitive nature of what’s being worked on.

However, one of the outcomes of the pandemic is that remote working will become a more common practice. Data from the Adecco Group, an HR company, suggests many employees have enjoyed remote working during the pandemic and would like to have more flexibility in the future.
  • The survey of 1,000 workers based in countries around the world revealed three-quarters of employees wanted a mix of office-based and remote working.
  • Almost 77 percent of business leaders agreed and suggested their workforce would benefit from greater flexibility.
  • 74 percent of leaders also suggested the working week could be revisited.
The bigger picture of course is climate change and the targets that governments have set to reduce carbon footprints. We have surely all noticed how cleaner the air was during the lockdown. As traffic has returned to the roads perhaps we have also noticed the smell of diesel and petrol has returned too.

It won’t have gone unnoticed in the corridors of power that pollution dropped radically during the lockdowns. This is likely, at some point, to propel significant policy changes that impact all areas of life including an increase in remote working with its positive impact on pollution reduction.

Small business remote working made easy

The struggle for many small businesses in adapting to the pandemic was ensuring they had the tech infrastructure in place to enable remote and flexible working policies. This was relatively easy given that there is a wide choice of cost-effective video conferencing tools and technologies that make remote working and meetings both viable and cost-effective.

However, there was also poor awareness of the need for cybersecurity which became particularly acute when it was discovered that approximately half a million Zoom ID credentials were for sale on the dark web in April.
  • ID credential theft often leads to account hacking and fraud. Hackers apply the stolen account credentials to other online services in the knowledge that people use the same passwords across multiple accounts. This can provide access to email accounts, for example, providing hackers with the opportunity to identify and exploit sensitive information such as communications and invoices between different companies.
However, cybersecurity needn't be expensive or complex for small businesses, it can be low cost, and provide the level of security small businesses need if the right technologies are used:
  • BullGuard VPN for instance renders users anonymous when online and encrypts communications so even if a hacker intercepts data it is unintelligible. It’s essential for video conferencing and communicating between the office and home to protect data. And it’s extremely simple to use.
  • In the same vein, BullGuard Small Office Security ensures a business can protect all devices that are accessing the company network even their own laptops that employees are using at home. It provides, centralised remote management of all devices from a cloud dashboard so each device is fully protected against all types of malware including ransomware.
Management changes

Adapting to home working also requires a shift in management style which is very important to ensure consistent performance:
  • Remote working clearly impacts on team dynamics and the quality of communication. In turn, this can affect team performance and the quality of work that is delivered. Within this context establishing trust and ensuring good communication is essential. These two factors create the foundation for a cohesive remote team, the sharing of skills and knowledge, work relationships, and performance.
  • Establishing trust can be established by acknowledging that employees can feel isolated when working from home alone. A manager can counter this by ensuring employees know they are supporting them. They can hold frequent check-ins with employees via video calls and phone calls which will overcome the sense of “out of sight, out of mind. 
  • It’s also important to ensure that workplace relationships and culture are not lost as people work from home. A manager can ensure a slot of private time for each employee in which they can exchange banter or simply hear about how their employees’ lives are working from home. It is also important for employees to have the means to continue communicating with each other. This humanises the virtual workspace.
  • Effective virtual teams need to work as a socially cohesive unit and they need to be in a secure environment to share skills, experience, and knowledge with each other. This means empowering and guiding the team, involving them in the development of group goals, and supporting them in decision making.
Despite the occasional flare-up of new Covid-19 infections, life is returning to a level of normality. It is just looking a bit different than before. Whether home working changes happen quickly depends on the nature of the business and industry. But employers have an opportunity to hit reset on traditional workplace practices, many of which have remained largely unchanged since the industrial revolution. It’s likely that many small businesses are already testing the waters, monitoring the public health situation, and garnering employee feedback. Clearly, there is still a lot of uncertainty but one thing is for sure and that is changes in how we continue to work together.