Some companies implemented remote working a long time before the pandemic, recognising the value to both their business and their employees. With COVID forcing us into remote working as standard, should businesses consider scrapping the office and overheads, requesting employees work from home full-time, or is this an unsustainable model of working?

The flexibility of remote working is its key benefit — it benefits caregivers immensely, offering the freedom to work while being present for children or elders. That aside, it has been shown to increase productivity and be more conducive to mental wellbeing than a daily commute. Besides that, there is an obvious cost saving to both the employee and the business, with companies saving on overheads such as rent, power and rates.

There is a counter-balance, however, and from an employee perspective being able to escape the home is as valuable as being allowed to stay in it. We are pack animals and thrive on human contact, so an office environment will offer employees that social benefit. From a business angle, adapting to full-time remote working could take some planning — what form will meetings take, can you easily assess work output, how will you train new employees? What software will you use to delegate and track output? Will you expect workers to be at their desks between certain hours, or will the work be piece-based? These are just some basic factors you will need to establish prior to making a decision.

With effective communication, the appropriate tools and structure, your business can continue to thrive remotely. If face-to-face employee interaction is important to your business, or its workers, a blended model can offer the benefits of both remote and in-house working — there is still no need for a full-time office as you can hire conference rooms for meetings on an as-and-when basis. 

Whichever you decide, ensure you are transparent with your employees, considering that any change in work environment will need to consider employee needs as well as the benefits to your business. Whether office-based, remote, or somewhere in-between, your business will only ever be as good as its employees, and your employees can only work efficiently when they are given the right tools.