It’s time to commit to remote working

The event that brought change to our working lives, ready or not, has the potential to become the catalyst for a permanent shift rather than a temporary adjustment, argues Amber Robinson.

It’s been six months since many of us have been to the office. What started as a crisis response to a pandemic has segued into A New Normal – and we don’t know when things are likely to change.

A recent survey on LinkedIn from Digivizer CEO Emma Lo Russo found that 63% of respondents were still working from home. Facebook, Uber and Google aren’t planning on sending staff back to the office until mid-2021.

Most organisations have pivoted remarkably well to remote working. Productivity is up, interest in exercise has increased and fathers are reportedly spending more time caring for their children.

But despite the optimistic outlook, many companies are yet to make a decision about whether to keep their office leases or restructure the way work looks in our New Normal.

Zoom meetings have become the new office boardroom in 2020

Since April, Salesforce has been surveying workers around the world to track their feelings about changes to the workforce due to COVID-19. The results are interesting, to say the least.

Just looking at the Australian data, 69% of respondents agree that the pandemic will permanently change the nature of work. In terms of their ideal work scenario, a majority (39%) would like to work from home full time, while 33% would like a split between work and home and just 28% would like to return to the office full time.

Some multinational organisations are already looking at a ‘hub and spoke’ model to facilitate a hybrid office approach, which would see a smaller urban head office augmented by suburban or satellite drop-in offices so that employees can still conduct meetings, get out of the house and enjoy face to face time.

The Salesforce data showed that only 65% of employees currently have the physical and digital tools to effectively do their job properly, so now might be the time to let employees take home monitors and ergonomic chairs, if you haven’t already – or help subsidise a home office set-up. Giving people the right access permissions and software is another (relatively) easy fix, but one which requires a new approach: what if people never returned to the office? What would your IT set-up look like then?

But there is more to remote working than remote bums on seats, as Quiip can attest to – we’ve been a fully remote organisation for 10 years now.


Communicate your vision

Workplace change is never easy, and communication is the most important tool in your arsenal.

Lay out your vision, including why you believe the change is a positive step forward, and what the path to completion will look like. Remember, some people will zero in on the small details, so prepare some FAQs.

Give yourself time to allow for feedback and allay concerns. Moving too quickly can sabotage your end goal – but don’t stop the momentum once it begins.


Re-define flexibility

When our CEO Alison Michalk founded Quiip, the existing models of flexibility didn’t suit the 24/7 service model of the business, nor the culture of responsibility and ownership she wanted to develop. Radical flexibility was the answer for us. It’s a big cultural change, but given that the Salesforce Snapshot research series found that over 40% of respondents were working later and starting work earlier than normal since remote working, it’s worth considering that the 9-5 model may need some updating.

Radical flexibility requires an overhaul of HR processes and performance indicators, but we’ve found that the results are worth it – our employee engagement results show 9 out 10 staff would recommend Quiip as an employer, and radical flexibility is the #1 why.

So be clear about what you mean when you say flexible for your organisation, to avoid confusion or concerns, and make sure to set boundaries around time and access, and what outcomes you expect from your team.


Invest in technology

Take that money you saved on rent and invest in enterprise social-networking tools and better digital platforms. These will help create the feeling of an office “in the cloud”, because email is no way to build a culture, and people need to feel seen by, and connected with peers. We use Workplace by Facebook and have areas for ‘Head office’, ongoing client projects and social chat.

Digital tools and platforms can also help you and your team build knowledge libraries that reduce the need for constant questions and interruptions.

You can also incorporate digital conferencing tools into your culture-building process with Friday afternoon drinks and quizzes, scavenger hunts and trivia.

Virtual isn’t always best, and we recommend in person meetings, retreats and conferences where possible, but with COVID restrictions still in place, sometimes you have to be creative.


Check in regularly

Not everyone loves working from home, and some people will experience loneliness, particularly if they live alone or are unable to leave the house much due to quarantine, disability or any number of other reasons.

Building a trusting and supportive culture and checking in with your staff regularly and can help. Additionally, we invested in the EAP tool Uprise which offers resilience and capability building alongside traditional counselling services.


The once-in-a lifetime event that is COVID-19 has given us a rare opportunity to stop and rethink the way we work. We have the opportunity to create the biggest shift in workplace culture since the 18th Century. It would be a real shame not to make the most of it.

Amber Robinson is a Senior Community Consultant with Quiip.


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