Company  |  18 May 2021 |  Tracy Maraj

Remote working: a way forward in the new normal

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Remote working isn’t new to the technology industry. We’ve been working this way in one guise or another for a couple of decades at least. What’s new is the extent to which we found ourselves working remotely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.  

By now, many employees around the world will have been remote working on and off for about a year. What was seen as a perk has become a business norm, and so the question we’re now asking ourselves is: what is our post-pandemic remote working strategy? 

 

Different approaches to remote working 

Some companies have raced ahead announcing a Work from Anywhere (WFA) model. Spotify are one such example, who described the policy as “a new way of collaborating that allows employees to work from wherever they do their best thinking and creating.” Employees will be able to elect a Work Mode that suits their personal needs best, which is to work mostly at home or in the office, as well as choosing their geographic location.  

At Mews we love the idea of WFA as it relates to location, and want to give this some more thought to ensure a smooth employee experience. As with most things, WFA is not quite as simple as it sounds, because of the impact it has on benefits, tax, social security and regulatory issues for both our Mewsers and Mews. 

But this WFA model isn’t only good news for workers – it can benefit business, too. It can give companies an edge in the talent recruitment war, because the flip side of Work from Anywhere is Hire from Anywhere, thereby opening up the global talent market. WFA is a seductive employer value proposition that will draw talent from other companies who are dissatisfied with more rigid remote working policies.  

Some companies went even further, choosing to operate with a fully remote working option and move away from offices altogether, perhaps driven by studies that show working from home can increase productivity. Although most businesses seem to favor a hybrid model – a combination of on-site and remote working – whichever option companies decide, there are pros and cons. The important thing is to take on board the learnings from the last year and apply them in whatever way will enable a productive, happy workforce. 

 

Remote working lockdown learnings 

Since the pandemic forced the majority of us into remote working last year, it’s fair to say that experiences have varied considerably, largely dictated by readiness and willingness to embrace remote working – on a business and individual level. What we’ve seen is that technology and connectivity is a top factor in a seamless transition, with creating the right environment for your homeworking setup equally important.  

When we first switched to remove working at Mews, almost everyone embraced this new way of working. We relished in the zero commuting times, flexible working hours, and no office distractions, and an increase in autonomy boosted productivity.  

However, as time wore on, we learned that effective remote working was hugely dependent on personal home situations. Those of us living in shared housing without a designated workspace, or as part of families with younger children and home schooling found it much more difficult as personal and professional lives merged into one. 

For some, the discipline and structure of a more traditional working day is still the best way to be productive. Although some of these challenges will lessen after lockdown, it made us realize that it’s essential to give our teams the option of a working space if they want it, whether that’s a Mews office or access to a co-working space. 

 

How we adapted to remote working at Mews 

Many of our managers talked about the challenges of remote working and staying connected to their teams. It’s important that our teams could still build trust and feel accessible, even though you could no longer just drop by someone’s desk. We saw the need for clear guidance around remote policies; manager training on leading and managing virtually; and support on wellness and mental health on account of social isolation and economic anxiety.  

Remote working veterans know that there are also drawbacks to remote working, such as a loss of connection and not feeling part of the greater cause. We saw this particularly with new hires who didn’t have the context of previously being part of company events, which provide better opportunities for networking and collaboration. After all, nothing helps you feel more at home than sharing a few drinks of your choice with colleagues while in fancy dress. 

We also experienced a change in our communication style. Some teams were quick of the mark setting up WhatsApp groups to stay connected and organize virtual social sessions to check in and enjoy each other’s company. We became less formal with colleagues, though in some instances written communication did create areas of misunderstanding. This prompted a refocusing on two of our core values, being open and human, and the need to be constructive and thoughtful in our communication with each other, especially given the extra strain of the pandemic.  

Another key realization was that our engagement strategies would call for much more deliberate and structured communication. We set up functional, regional and manager sessions to review our engagement scores and actively talk about the areas where we could see lower levels of engagement. Primarily, these were around wellness and work life balance.  

 

Mews is embracing the flexible working model 

More than most companies, Mews believes in the power of a true community spirit. Ever since we began, professional and social interactions were at the heart of day-to-day life. So, as we started to think about our back to work strategies, it was clear that we needed to adopt a hybrid working model that would retain the ability to travel and connect in-person with each other, while also giving individuals more autonomy over their workplace situation.  

We expect our workspace to evolve into more flexible desking and are keen to leverage our very own Project Spacetime space management solution to support managing demand. We also see a shift to fewer desks and more collaborative working environments designed to nurture creativity and innovation.  

In essence, we believe this approach will give our team the best of both worlds. Currently, offices in key locations – Prague, London and Amsterdam – make it easy to connect with our peers, while provisions for homeworking ensure that people don’t feel pressured to come into the office if they’re more productive at home. Many people say this flexibility is the future of work. At Mews, it’s very much the present.

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Tracy Maraj
18 May 2021