In the Wake of Enforced Remote Working Has the Office Become Obsolete?

In the Wake of Enforced Remote Working Has the Office Become Obsolete?

The COVID-19 pandemic has swiftly altered the way in which many businesses operate. With UK government advice encouraging people to avoid unnecessary travel and social contact, and with companies risking exposing their employees to the virus in the workplace, many people are now working from home.

For some, this represents an expansion of remote working, while others may be experiencing it for the first time. In many cases, productivity has remained relatively stable and some workers actually prefer the arrangement. Of course, this then opens up questions about the future of the office and whether the concept has become obsolete.

At Fifosys we have seen over the recent months that a number of our clients have successfully been working remotely and continued to deliver the operations of the business. We have seen new business being won and more innovate methods used for our clients to interact with their customers. Most clients traditionally accommodated for up to 30 percent of staff to work remotely from home or client’s sites, but this period has led to needing to increase that to 100 percent. For many of our clients, especially those that have been in operation for more than 50 years, they never considered that they would be able to operate anywhere near to 100% remotely.

As a result, we have already seen some clients permanently serve notice on 25% of their branches, as they have proven a more effective method of remote working on a continued basis. The overheads being saved are considerable and certainly enable further investment in technology and automation to support the longer term growth aspirations of the business.

This raises two questions:

“Does one still need a ‘swanky’ office?”

and

“How many offices does a business need?”

In this blog post, we take a closer look at what the future may have in store for the traditional workplace.

Advantages of Remote Work

Although remote work, or telecommuting, is nothing new, the lockdown measures associated with the Coronavirus outbreak have forced many businesses into allowing staff to work from home, even if they previously had an aversion to the concept. The good news is, thanks to modern cloud computing solutions, there has never been a better time to embrace this transition.

There are also a number of key advantages or benefits associated with remote work. For instance, employees who are ill may usually take time off of work, but when remote working is an option, they are often able to do some work from home, even if they are not operating at the absolute peak of their productivity.

For employees, the lack of a commute to and from work can result in lower stress levels and higher-quality sleep and this, in turn, can improve performance.

As we have seen first-hand for many businesses, the ability to have employees work from home can result in a reduced need for office space and even the ability to close some offices, saving a substantial amount of money.

Moreover, the Coronavirus pandemic has helped businesses to condition clients to some of the realities of remote work. This has been beneficial in managing expectations and moving towards doing business in a different way.

Why Offices Are Still Valuable

While work from home arrangements have become a reliable alternative to office-based work in many industries, it is important to understand that the office is not yet obsolete and still has key advantages.

An office offers the ability to have the kind of spontaneous conversations that can help to spark creativity and improve understanding.

"We are accustomed to having people sitting together, turning their chairs around, having those really useful serendipitous hallway conversations," said Ali Rayl, Vice President of Customer Experiences at Slack, speaking to MIT Technology Review during the Coronavirus pandemic. "I can no longer pause for 15 seconds outside of a meeting knowing that I'll catch somebody who I have a quick question for."

On top of this, it is worth noting that there are security concerns associated with telecommuting. Although measures can be taken to mitigate risk here, it is usually easier to guarantee security in an office, where everyone is connected to the same secure network, using the same web browsers, and working on trustworthy devices.

It is also fair to say that some employees still prefer having an office to go to, as it creates a clearer separation between work life and home life, and provides an element of social interaction too.

What is the Future of the Office?

Despite the advantages associated with having a physical, shared workspace, the reality is that leasing an office is expensive. In light of the enforced lockdown caused by COVID-19, organisations with more than one office are likely to ask themselves whether they are all needed and whether the money could be spent on better things.

It is widely anticipated that remote work may form part of the 'new normal' after the Coronavirus crisis comes to an end. Employers are likely to be more open to allowing employees to work from home and may have little choice if social distancing measures remain in place, or have the potential to be brought back in future.

Yet, the future of the office is not entirely bleak, even if things have changed. As an article for Mortgage Professional America highlights, a growing number of companies are likely to seek short-term leases and flexible workspaces, where they pay for the space they need, when they need it. This will allow for some degree of remote work to continue, but also offer the ability to adapt to requirements and situations in the moment.

Seeking Out Managed Services

For any business that intends to allow remote work now, or in the future, cyber security is a top priority. Furthermore, employees need to be able to access the company network, important documents and files, core applications and reliable methods of communication. Fortunately, a managed service provider can help with all of these concerns.

Businesses will benefit from working with a managed IT services provider to support back office IT requirements. This is especially true for mid-market businesses that want to extend the capability of the in-house IT departments to allow them to focus on improving front end systems. Back office IT includes the areas of Security, Networks, Server Infrastructure Platform, Cyber Threat Protection, Systems Monitoring & Remediation, Performance Optimisation, Data Backup & Business Continuity, System Patch Management and Software Upgrades.

At Fifosys, we have worked with many small and medium enterprises in London and the South East, helping to facilitate remote work. Whether you need help creating and implementing a disaster recovery strategy, tightening your cyber security, or require cloud services or Microsoft Office 365 deployment, we are more than happy to help.

Mitesh Patel

Managing Director

Mitesh Patel