Will home working become the norm?

Shauna Moran – Operate Remote

Staff members working from home during the coronavirus crisis may be reluctant to return to base after the emergency passes, a Mayo expert on home working has claimed.

But the circumstances of the current home-working surge are “too bizarre” to be taken as a reliable indicator of whether or not this novel approach is sustainable for individual companies, Ballinrobe woman Shauna Moran has said.

Ms Moran, who said getting a remote working position with e-commerce platform Shopify “completely changed my life for the better”, runs Operate Remote. She helps companies to build remote teams and has been “inundated” with enquiries following the sudden imposition of the new working order.

“Companies are faced with a whole new challenge, that of managing teams that went from being under one roof just a few weeks ago to a scenario where they are now distributed all over Ireland, and maybe even further afield,” she said.

“In my view, some companies will completely struggle to get on top of this, while others will embrace it and find it a very effective working model.

“And, in time, many employees may well decide that they would like to continue to work from home when they get accustomed to the benefits of zero commuting miles, more time with the family and eating lunch in the family home each day.”

However, for now, “everyone is scrambling to adjust,” she said.

“People are under huge pressure. They have basically taken their work into their own home at a time when they have a range of other issues, such as looking after children who are also home full time or supporting a partner whose work has closed down.

“Even the managers are working from home. It’s unprecedented for so many people.

“So people are fire-fighting. They are trying to juggle multiple balls and, in the short term, companies should give them some space.

“At the best of times, adjusting to working from home takes time. Ideally, companies and employees feel their way into it. Right now, it has just been thrust upon people.”

Companies must consider a variety of factors as they manage their temporarily distributed teams.

“Managers must take great care to communicate effectively with remote workers. They must listen very carefully for any signs of stress or uncertainty because those signals are harder to pick up on conference and phone calls than they are in the canteen,” said Shauna.

“This can be difficult for managers who are dealing with extraordinary change themselves. But a great deal of research, knowledge and support is now available for companies who have remote teams.”

Liam Horan is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers in Ballinrobe.

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