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How COVID-19 will create a revolution in flexible working

Blog
22nd March 2020

Since the time of writing this, just a few weeks ago, the world has changed dramatically, with entire countries entering strict lockdown periods and large regions operating under shelter in place instructions. My thoughts below on the importance of flexibility and looking after our people have become increasingly pertinent, and as a business we have done our best to respond in kind. In 25 short days, more than 38 000 of our employees are now undertaking home based or remote working, and this number will continue to rise as we work with our clients to tackle operational, technical and logistical challenges.

I owe a huge debt of thanks for this incredible feat to our IT and Operations teams who continue to go above and beyond, to our many clients for their support in this changing environment and most importantly to all our people for their commitment and dedication.

You can read more about our current position on the Coronavirus and the key areas our people are supporting here.

It is now obvious that a seismic change is being experienced by our industry, the ramifications of which will be felt for years to come. This will alter the customer experience landscape forever, and we must be both responsible and responsive in meeting this challenge.


As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to have an unprecedented impact on business and society across the globe, David Turner, Webhelp Managing Director and CEO for the UK Group, looks at how this unexpected force will drive a revolution in homeworking, and why businesses who struggle to embrace this may be placing themselves at a serious disadvantage.

We are living in astonishing times, and the whole world is watching as Governments and scientists argue over the best approach to safeguard the health of populations, to look after the vulnerable and to keep the global economy stable.

And there is no doubt that related conversations are happening within the worldwide business community, debating the best strategies and most flexible solutions to keep the wheels of work turning and employees safe and well looked after.

At Webhelp, our people are our top priority, and we are reacting quickly, providing daily guidance and working with our clients and community to ensure that everyone across the business is informed and as equipped as possible to face what is likely to be a period of rapid change.

The world is now facing the biggest economic and social upheaval since the Second World War, and as we did during that challenging period, we must be ready to rise to meet some unprecedented changes in the status quo.

The transformation of the wartime workforce is well documented, with the image of Rosie the Riveter in her coveralls and red bandana alongside the slogan “We Can Do It!” becoming one of the best-known icons of World War II. Now as then, we need to call upon new ways of thinking and using resources and people that we have in the best, most innovative ways.

It is a time for increased flexibility, and this isn’t something businesses should be afraid of. In fact Forbes studies confirm that that increasing flexibility creates significant improvements in morale, productivity, and engagement – especially when employees are given the option to work remotely or to an adaptable schedule.

It has been my experience, which is backed by evidence from The International Journal of Economics, that flexibility in working hours reduces employee work stress, improves their mental and physical stability – which in turn creates greater effectiveness and efficiency, determination and coordination.

I completely understand that some business may be wary of remote working, perhaps due to the feeling that they can no longer control or measure the number of hours their employees are working.

Atually going into the office creates a less productive environment – as The Wall Street Journal notes: “Office workers are interrupted–or self-interrupted–roughly every three minutes.” And, after interruption it takes almost half an hour to get back on focus to their original task.

There is no doubt that along with COVID-19, a radical change is coming, whether we are ready for it or not – and business that mobilise NOW to embrace this new way of working, will find themselves ahead of the curve in relation to their less adaptable competitors, and way ahead in terms of resilience and productivity.

Remote working is becoming the new normal with CNN Business reporting that companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon have already implemented remote working policies for many or all of their employees around the globe.

There is now no time to waste, as reporter Sean Peak for Business News Daily concludes:

“Instead of resisting the change, organizations should improve their remote work policies and capabilities.”

As a people-first business, we are committed to taking a human approach to this crisis and using the technology we have to safeguard all our colleagues, which means rapidly looking at ways to increase our infrastructure to support homeworking where possible.

This isn’t a universal solution, and we know that homeworking won’t be the correct answer for every business objective, including some within our own operations. This will have to be a managed process, which might not be suitable for the full range of employees. Finding the correct balance will be something that will take co-operation, innovation and experience.

Many in the business community think that at, this stage in the game, we can only wait and wonder, however, I firmly believe that brands who use this precious (fast decreasing) window to take decisive action to look after their people, and put strategies and logistics for a degree of homeworking in place, will reap the benefits both in the short term and in the uncertain future.

   Homeworking – the facts!
  • Remote employees work an additional 1.4 more days per month than in-office employees, which is nearly 17 additional workdays a year.
  • Remote employees take longer breaks on average than office employees (22 minutes versus 18 minutes, respectively), but they work an additional 10 minutes a day. On balance, for a 50 week time period this translates into an increase of approximately 3.57 extra working days a year.
  • Office workers are unproductive for an average 37 minutes a day, not including lunch or breaks, whereas remote employees are unproductive for only 27 minutes. That’s almost six more days’ worth of productivity annually!
 * Data Airtasker 2019


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