As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many professional services firms to adopt remote work policies, it’s natural to question what the future of work will look like. If you have ever questions if full-time work from home is the right option for your business then you are not alone. How you handle this will significantly impact your business over the coming years.
At Prime Partners, we were lucky enough to have already experimented with a hybrid model where people worked part-time from home so moving to full time was not a big challenge. When the pandemic hit, the biggest issues we faced were making sure our employees had the right equipment (like comfortable chairs and extra monitors) to work from home effectively.
Over time, some employees have come to enjoy the flexibility and autonomy that come with working from home and are resistant when it comes to returning to the office. So, we asked, Is full-time work from home the future or a death sentence for our business?
The result, full-time work from home in professional service firms is not a sustainable long-term solution – it’s bad for both the business and the employee. Full-time in the office is not the answer either. The full-time work from home we experienced during the pandemic was as good as it gets – don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the performance we saw then will be reflective in the future.
While it is clear that full-time in the office is not the answer, a hybrid work model that incorporates both remote and in-person work can provide the best of both worlds. By returning to the office at least 60% of the time, professionals can take advantage of the benefits of in-person interaction and training, while still enjoying the flexibility and autonomy of working from home. This model allows for a more balanced and sustainable approach to work, and ultimately, it is the best option for both the business and its employees.
The below points are not exhaustive but in my mind are enough, in fact I think one or two of them alone are enough to show that implementing full time remote working would be a mistake. I am not saying that the world won’t evolve to a place where it will work but I am confident it is not there yet.
In-person training and development opportunities
The office environment provides opportunities for hands-on training and exposure to new ideas that simply can’t be replicated through a computer screen. In-person training sessions, team meetings, and informal conversations with colleagues all provide valuable opportunities for professional development and knowledge-sharing. For example, overhearing how directors and partners talk to clients on the phone can be an invaluable learning experience. These interactions are especially important for new employees, who may not have the same level of experience or established networks as their colleagues. By spending time in the office, professionals can take advantage of these learning opportunities and build relationships with their colleagues that can support their growth within the company.
Building company culture and fostering a sense of community
The office plays a crucial role in building company culture and fostering a sense of community. When employees work remotely full-time, it can be easy to feel disconnected from the company and its values. By spending time in the office, professionals can actively contribute to and shape their company’s culture and build personal connections with their colleagues. This sense of belonging and connection can be especially important in the professional services industry, where strong teamwork and collaboration are key to success.
Improved communication and collaboration
The office environment can facilitate more efficient communication and collaboration. While video conferencing and other digital tools have certainly helped bridge the gap during the pandemic, there is still no substitute for the speed and clarity of in-person communication. By spending at least some of their time in the office, professionals can take advantage of the ability to quickly discuss projects and ideas face-to-face, which can help them get things done more efficiently.
Mental health benefits
The mental health benefits of separating work and home life should not be underestimated. While working from home can provide some flexibility and autonomy, it can also be challenging to maintain clear boundaries between work and personal life. By spending a portion of their week in the office, professionals can enjoy the benefits of a dedicated workspace and the sense of structure that comes with it. This can help them avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Actions to take now
- Choose how you will treat new staff; we have a compulsory 80% for new staff and 100% for graduates in the first 6 months
- Decide how work from home and performance management will work, if someone is not thriving does their work from home conditions change?
- Choose a day or two each week that are your anchor days. These are the days that all staff need to be in. It is integral to culture. Will it be Monday & Friday, how will staff react to that?
- Clearly document your police and integrate it into the systems of the firm (welcome packs for new employees, etc.
- Have the hard conversation with staff, educate them on why the hybrid model works for the business and themselves.
Lastly remember success not perfection, keep moving forwards.