Working from home is not the long term solution, "smart working" will restart the economy

It's months since "normal" office life reared its head up and down the United Kingdom, with the notorious Monday morning "stand up" meetings or the infamous horizon planning meetings at some organisations scrapped to the realms of virtual meetings on Zoom, Teams or Skype. Can you run a business remotely and virtually and still ensure that the wellbeing of your staff is maintained, customer service levels to clients meets the standard required, and if you are a regulated company ensure that your team is playing by the rules?

The answer lies somewhere in the middle the so called "hybrid". Professor Nicholas Bloom from Stanford University was reported in The Times as saying that it was "a huge collective mistake,” that people should have been working from home far more before the pandemic.

But how can you mentor junior staff over the phone or on Skype? How do you build relationships with your clients if you have never met them, if you working in an advisory role and how do you monitor compliance and regulations when your staff are at home and could quite easily provide market sensitive data to friends and relatives without the same checks that exist in the office.

The "hybrid" model of working is something that is now growing in prominence, effectively organisations workforce are working from the office Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and the rest of the week is spent working from home. This means that there is enough time to engender a strong team ethos and spirit, and to ensure all staff are working in the manner the organisation expects and all processes are up to date in order to provide the correct level of customer service to clients. But by having this permanent work from home regime, we are creating other problems on the horizon. The mental health of staff will deteriorate, and crucially productivity suffers.

Professor Jonathan Haskel from the Bank of England made this comment to The Times said that he was "unconvinced that greater remote working will help". "With a fast internet connection, workers can do many tasks on their laptops. Distance from distracting colleagues and stuffy offices can be beneficial, but remote working makes other tasks more difficult. It is possible to fill in an Excel spreadsheet at home, for example, but asking a colleague to check your work and to give you immediate feedback is more difficult."

Our economy cannot long term run via a laptop or via a Skype call, we need to ensure that people, teams, companies start going back to the office and restart the "come-back" of the British economy.