The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way we work and live. Schools, restaurants and offices are all closed, promoting a new way of working for those who could work remotely. This has been a dramatic shift for many public sector organisations in particular, where traditional models of working were widely in operation before the pandemic. Although remote working isn’t achievable for all organisations, many have seen the positive effects of remote working, including better employee wellbeing and retention.
With no real idea of when organisations can return to the office full-time, many institutions across the public and private sector must reimagine their work and the role of offices to maintain a safe, productive and enjoyable workplace.
- Remote Working Benefits
- Future Office Capacity Requirements
- Creating a Safe Office Environment
- Maintaining Collaboration Between Departments
Remote Working Benefits
Employees can enjoy a variety of benefits from remote working, including time and money saved on their daily commute, lower stress levels and more time to spend on hobbies or with family and friends.
Although remote working offers an abundance of benefits to employees, employers have often believed it’s not good for business. However, according to Forbes, there are a variety of productivity benefits for employers:
- Greater productivity - remote workers are 35-40% more productive.
- Better performance - with stronger autonomy via location independence, employees produce results with 40% fewer quality defects.
- More engagement - increased productivity and performance combine to create stronger engagement, also known as 41% lower absenteeism.
- Increased retention - 54% of employees say they would change jobs for one that offered them more flexibility, which results in an average of 12% turnover reduction after a remote work agreement is offered.
- Profitability - organisations save an average of $11,000 (£8,558) per year per part-time remote worker or 21% higher profitability.
Not only that, but employers can also reduce their carbon footprint. According to the BBC, the UK and US transport sector is now responsible for emitting more greenhouse gases than any other. With fewer commuters, the US has seen reductions in NO2 and PM2.5 by 16% in San Francisco alone. In the UK, it's predicted carbon emissions will reduce by 11% this year due to the effects of lockdown.
There are also some great financial savings to be made. In fact, annually, companies can save up to $11,000 (£8,558) for each employee allowed to work at home for half of the time.
There’s a strong business case for working from home, rather than sticking to the traditional norms of working in an office space. It allows you to retain staff members while also attracting new ones who might have the necessary skills but usually wouldn’t be available due to location.
Working from home minimises business disruption as well. For example, rail strikes, flooding and roadworks are common in the UK and allow staff to use their time more productively at home.
Sickness and absenteeism are reduced while you also save on general office costs, such as electricity bills.
Future Office Capacity Requirements
Although remote working is effective, offices may still be required for interviews and meetings with clients. Determining exactly how much office space is needed is another concern. Many studies concerning optimal workplace design show office densities that ranged from 75 to 150 square feet per person, although this does vary by industry.
However, if employees are to return to the office, they'll need double the space to ensure safe social distancing is maintained. As a result, only 50% of employees may be able to return to offices at any given time.
As a general rule, the number of employees that return to the office shouldn’t exceed the amount of clean, safe space there is per person. To achieve this, many precautions must be considered.
Creating a Safe Office Environment
Employees must be able to maintain a safe distance of two metres away from each other. This includes kitchens, elevators, restrooms, hallways and any other high-traffic areas where more than one person can be in that space.
If you don’t have enough space in your office for social distancing, a rotating schedule will work best for your business. For a successful transition, it’s vital to estimate the usage of your office space accurately. To do this, consider the full number of employees and then work out how many will have to stay at home due to being high-risk or if they’re living with high-risk family members.
From this, you can then determine how many people can come into the office and see how it compares to your office space. If there are too many employees to maintain a safe distance, some may need to work from home as part of a rotation. Even after putting all of these measures in place, it’s crucial to also continue to monitor and manage the flow of employees, making adjustments wherever necessary.
Maintaining Collaboration Between Departments
As we venture further into a new way of working, collaboration between departments has never been more important. By investing in the latest technology and applications, organisations can ensure communications between departments will be productive and effective.
Tools such as VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) provide phone service over the internet. It enables users to have phone service delivered through their internet connection instead of from their local phone company. Other tools will also become the norm, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams as well as video communication platforms, such as Zoom.
Cloud storage is another useful tool. It provides organisations with storage solutions that can be accessed with a Wi-Fi connection and offers greater scalability than traditional methods using physical storage devices.
Whether employees are working from home or in the office, this kind of effective collaboration and communication will be key to allowing your organisation to run smoothly and keeping your employees safe.
Learn More About Smart Working Spaces
COVID-19 has transformed public sector working practices and presented employers with unprecedented challenges across every area of their work. As a country, we’re moving closer to returning to work, which is why public sector organisations need to revisit plans for their working environments.
GovNet Events has gathered a panel of Smart Working experts to reflect on their experiences and learnings of remote working during the pandemic, as well as their opinions on what the future of working in the public sector looks like.