By Pamela Phillips
With Twitter announcing plans to allow employees to work from home forever, is this the beginning of the end for corporate offices?
Covid-19 has accelerated the trend towards remote working which, although the tools to enable this have been around for some time, has perhaps not been fully embraced by that many businesses and employees up until now.
With no end to Covid-19 insight, it’s likely that many people will continue to choose to work from home for the foreseeable future. This leads to the question, what does this mean for the regular office?
Should we all be closing our offices?
A few of our clients have recently given notice on their offices. Not because their businesses are especially struggling, or even because of Covid-19, but because they have seen that their team can work absolutely fine remotely. The meetings that people came into the office for can just as easily be held over zoom.
It’s not just some of our clients who are making the move away from office-based working, we are too. We gave notice at our Epsom office a few weeks ago. The decision was not an easy one, and not even a permanent one, but for now, at least, we’ve no plans to return to the office any time soon.
One of the big reasons is that I don’t feel comfortable going back to work in an office yet and I’m not prepared to ask anyone else in the team to do this either. We don’t need to anyway as, because we are a fully digital business, we can work easily from anywhere.
What’s the impact of moving to remote working?
You can save money
Of course, there are cost and time savings from working from home. One of our clients has seen their staff travel costs reduce significantly as has the amount of time spent traveling. Obviously there are also rent and rates savings to be made too.
It’s not just about costs though is it?
For many, going to the office, chatting to colleagues and being part of a close-knit team brings much needed social interaction. The daily rituals of chatting by the water cooler or escaping your desk with a work buddy for your usual coffee run are an important part of people's daily lives.
You do need to work harder to collaborate successfully with colleagues when you don’t have that daily face-to-face interaction. The informal conversations that just happen when you are sitting near someone in an office need more thought and planning to arrange when everyone is working remotely.
When you layer flexible working into this environment, with everyone working different hours and different days, it brings additional challenges.
Personally, I love flexible working. I enjoy claiming some of each day back for myself. I like the thought (albeit perhaps not the reality at the moment) that I could stop work on a sunny day and go up to the Epsom racecourse to watch the horses training in the morning, or enjoy a long lunch with my family in the garden on a warm day.
We’re working on upping our communications internally at de Jong Phillips so that we can manage this flexible way of working. We have to work harder to ensure the handovers of work between people happen efficiently. It’s not easy and we’ve not quite got it right just yet but we’re getting there. Tools like Slack, Zoom and Karbon are a real help.
Does it affect how your business is perceived if you don’t have an office?
As much as it shouldn’t matter, I think having a physical office can make a difference to how a business is perceived. An office gives an impression of permanence, of professionalism and can help build trust with your customers and potential customers. As accountants this is really important, we need our clients to trust us!
I expect that in the future when it is safe to return to the office, we’ll settle on some sort of a hybrid between remote and office-based working for de Jong Phillips.
We’ll go back to having an office but it will be a space to meet each other as well as clients and suppliers. A place to share ideas and, for those who want to, to work. I think people will embrace flexible working more, so rather than working from home one or two days a week, it may flip around so they instead just come into the office one or two days a week.