Remote working: were you ready?

In May 2019 the eLN published an insight article titled ‘Remote working: Is your organisation ready?’: little did we know then what was going to happen in just over 6 months.

For throwback Thursday I’m going to look at that article and put a 2021 spin on it, given that many people in our industry are now working from home.

The stats

The article predicted 50% of employees were expected to be working from home by 2020. That prediction wasn’t far off, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) records 46.6% of people did some work from home in April 2020. 

At this point we were in the beginning of the first UK lockdown.

Initial results from the eLN and PeopleStar research, which is open until 26 February 2021, show some of the impact working from home is having on people.

For instance, 34% have transformed their business model in the last 6 months. I can understand that, especially if your business was specialising in face-to-face training.

One of the worrying statistics which is coming out of this research is that 50% of people are less active. Now, I’ve never been an active person at the best of times and now I can quite easily go a full week without leaving the house. Most of my day is spent sitting at my desk. I have become a little more active since I bought a wireless headset so I can walk around my room when I’m on meetings. But before the first lockdown I was commuting to Manchester every day, walking 1-2 miles which I’m simply not doing right now.

Productivity and efficiency

The original article stated 53% of people would feel more productive and 58% would feel more motivated when working remotely.

The eLN and PeopleStar research indicates that 28% of people say they are working longer hours; I know myself I spend longer at my laptop because I’m not rushing to catch the train home. So, another aspect is that people are expected to be available at all times. You don’t have to commute so why not squeeze in another meeting, or an extra half an hour of design work?

Personally, I feel I have always been more productive when working from home, but that could be due to my set up. Many years ago, when I was employed, I would work from the living room with my laptop on my knee. Fast forward to 2017 when I became self-employed: I created a dedicated working space with an additional screen, which greatly increased my productivity. 

I remember when I first started working from home and there was a little bit of a stigma around it. People would think you were just taking the day off and watching TV instead of working. They didn’t realise that I was actually doing more work when I wasn’t in the office!

Is flexible working here to stay?

The original article stated 67% of people wish they were offered flexible working and 70% of workers felt offering flexible working made a job more attractive to them. In 2019 some organisations were already listening to their employees and offering flexible or remote working.

Our research suggests 25% of people are now juggling work and home schooling, with self-employed people finding this more challenging. 

I wonder if the original article’s statistics would be lower if they factored in the home-schooling element? And I wonder how this has affected people’s morale?

Once the pandemic is over and people have the opportunity to head back into offices, will they?

Challenges we overcame

Recruitment, induction and onboarding

Organisations have had to step up when it comes to recruitment. They’ve had no choice.

Gone are the days where you had a 2-week face-to-face induction, followed by 3 weeks’ buddying (that was standard at the call centres I worked in).

Now people are interviewed online, complete virtual training, eLearning, virtual coaching. 

The pandemic has forced organisations to evolve: the question is, could we or should we have done this sooner?

Collaboration and communication

Our research shows 34% of people are feeling less connected but on the flip side 16% have started to connect and network more. If you’re reading this as a full eLN member, you’re in the right place!

The original article states communication is key, and it’s right!

When I was in the office, my team all sat together so communication was easy. Now we have check-ins 3 times per week on top of our weekly team meeting. We have made the effort to be more connected.

That’s what we need to do, make the effort, speak to people, not just over instant chat like Teams. Actually, pick up the phone and talk. Which leads us on to the next point.

Stress and wellbeing

During the pandemic, stress levels have increased. This is down to many factors, some of which are listed in this article.

  • Working longer hours
  • WFH and home schooling
  • Feeling less connected
  • Exercising less.

Organisations have a responsibility to look after their staff wellbeing. But what about self-employed people?

Just after the first lockdown, the eLN started the monthly Tea & Talk sessions which allow members to chat to other members. This can decrease stress as you are getting some face-to-face connection, can talk and know people are listening, as well as sharing your concerns. As I said before, we need to make the effort to decrease our stress, finding things which work for us individually. For me it helps to have a couple of people I can call at any time to vent to if I am feeling stressed.

In conclusion

Nobody expected a pandemic to happen or for most people to be working from home or even forced out of work. If you are struggling, reach out, join a network because there are people out there who feel the same as you and can help, even if like me you just need someone to listen while you vent your frustrations.

The internet is flooded with articles, webinars, blogs and videos about living and working in a pandemic-stricken world. The MIT Sloan Management Review published this article on ‘Redesigning the Post-Pandemic Workplace’. It talks of the changing work-world we live in and offers hope about how it can bring new opportunities to people. Read it and see if it resonates with you.

David Kelly’s blog from his recent session at #LTDX21 discusses ‘The Now and Next of Learning & Technology’. He looks at the technology that will shape our future and he includes many links to useful information and articles. Many of contents of the articles still ring true and can help us navigate 2021 and beyond.

One last statistic for you: our research shows that 25% of people are now studying to improve their employability. If you are a full eLN member, you could benefit from having an eLN Mentor or from attending one of our interactive webinar series on all aspects of eLearning and learning design.

What do you think? Keep an eye out on LinkedIn and get involved in the discussions.

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Kim Ellis

Kim Ellis

I have been in this fabulous world of L&D since 2007 and I have worked in quite a few different sectors, from insurance to online gambling to healthcare and higher education. When I was made redundant in 2017 I set up Go Ginger Learning Solutions Ltd, my aim is to enable your people be the best they can be as quickly as possible.