COVID-19 – the game changer for home working.

In the 1980’s Economists began to imagine the change in the relationship between home and work as new waves of technological advancement made the opportunity to work outside the conventional boundaries of the ‘Office’ possible. New IT & Telco systems and hardware would revolutionise the way we worked and change the Corporate world. Thus, giving the workforce the opportunity to be free from the stresses of the daily commute, of heavy traffic, cancelled or overcrowded trains and buses, enabling a better balance of work and family life.

While working from home has become a reality for millions of us globally in Cyprus only 1.2% of the workforce worked from home prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is one of the lowest in the EU who had a home working average of 5.2%. In the UK 5% of the labour force worked mainly from home and  25% of the workforce there having had some experience of working from home.

However, with advent and spread of Covid -19 this has proved to be a game changer for home working. Over the last few months home and remote working has dramatically increased as a result of the lock-down measures implemented to tackle the spread of the Virus. Like many companies we at GRS & Fairfax Yeaman began working from home in mid-March once the Government had announced the closing of schools. Our reasoning was both pragmatic and based on our Corporate Social responsibility; 80% of our employees are  female and we have a large proportion of working Mothers who are primary care-givers to their children, but also we wanted to do our bit to help prevent the spread of the Virus in Cyprus.

Fortunately, due to previous events in Cyprus we have a strong disaster continuity plan which means that all of our team  are connected to our servers and CRM systems through a secure VPN and at a moment’s notice we can all work remotely.

This  is exactly what we did! We switched off on the Friday from the Office and switched on Monday morning, from  our Sofa’s, Couches, Kitchen tables, spare rooms and gardens! With everyone having Company Laptops, Mobile Phones and What’s App groups it was a seamless transition from the Office to home -working. Like for many companies this has been a huge experiment for us as while we had done some homeworking on an ad-hoc basis in the past it was a complete step into the unknown.

While homeworking has been around for a while many organisations are resistant to remote working and have avoided it for fear of  lack of productivity from their staff. A workforce in the office can be directly monitored and managed at close quarter however managing at a distance poses new challenges. Working from home requires your staff to have self-motivation, discipline; the ability to work unsupervised and without the camaraderie of Colleagues and Managers, while also doing all of this in a domestic setting (which in itself can be a huge challenge). How do you explain to a two-year-old that Mummy is in the  kitchen making a cup of coffee while talking on the phone to a client or candidate and she can’t be interrupted to see their lovely painting of the dog that  they have  just produced!!

As the situation of the Corona Virus unfolded we have seen a more accepting and accommodating atmosphere and culture in the working world and environment. We are all now familiar with the sounds of children in the background as we have a call with colleagues and clients, sometimes laughing sometimes crying ( I mean the children) ! But I believe we have all become accepting of this as for the moment and maybe in the future this  is going to be the way of the world of work. Indeed, a recent Zoom meeting with our Lawyers and Accountants was made hugely entertaining as my eight-year-old son’s face appeared mid -way through the meeting -having  logged on to the meeting by mistake through his own Laptop. An eight-year-old now familiar with Zoom, Skype, Showbie and Power Point presentations as his schooling has been transformed by the situation .

It has been a huge challenge for all Companies across Cyprus and at GRS & Fairfax Yeaman I have to commend our team for their  amazing achievement of not only managing the balance of working from home and maintaining work output and performance but also having seen a large  increase in productivity  levels throughout the business. Without the daily commute stuck in traffic which can be very frustrating and time consuming and the distractions that come up in the office (talking about the next big Netflix series – Joe Exotic The Tiger King series etc) we have seen many of our team excel in working from home and they have reported that they feel more productive and more focused.

From our perspective and I am sure for a great many other companies this will change how we work and how we think about the workplace. Moving forward it will be essential to review and incorporate the opportunity for staff to work remotely from home. The challenge maybe to see how people can transition from working from home full time to working from home part-time. Indeed, one of my colleagues on recently returning said it had taken them most of the morning to re-adjust to being back in the office. While others have found it a complete godsend not having to balance the domestic and work environment from their spare room.

It will throw up questions about Office Space -will we still need large offices ? A great many global business leaders are saying the days of the big Corporate HQ’s are nigh. Do we still need the space to accommodate all of our personnel at the same time ? Or can we reduce the office space we have as half of the team will be working form home at any given time ? There are no easy answers to these questions and each organisation will need to respond accordingly to their needs as they have responded to the challenges thrown up in these unprecedented times.

Personally I have to say considering the unprecedented time that Covid -19 has presented to all of us and the fact that none of us had time to prepare for this I have been amazed at the adaptability, tenacity, self-motivation and can -do attitude of our team at GRS & Fairfax Yeaman. Not only  in their ability to thrive and succeed in this unchartered territory but also to prosper.

As I am sure you are aware it is business as usual for us at GRS & Fairfax Yeaman and on behalf of all of us stay safe and stay well.

Written by Steve Slocombe – Director of The GRS Group – May 2020