The last year has seen the world experience a revolution in home working. In the UK alone, the number of people working remotely doubled in 2020 to 8.4 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Although some workers are slowly returning to the office, there has been a definitive growth in flexible and hybrid working.
Increasingly many employees are choosing to work both in the office and at home during different parts of the week, with some businesses even allowing staff to work when it best suits their needs.
This can mean that the members of the same team are working in different places, during different hours and sometimes not on the same systems.
Alongside this, a growing number of new vacancies are remote working only, while employees are increasingly only taking jobs that offer them greater flexibility.
The priorities of many peoples’ careers have shifted away from just focusing on earnings and now place greater value on work/life balance.
The Government has also recognised this trend and extended flexible working request rights to the first day of a person’s employment.
In fact, the impact has been so great in the UK that it has started to shift the demand from city centres to suburbs and the countryside.
This means that many businesses now need to manage an increasingly dispersed workforce, without the oversight that comes from a traditional office workplace.
With hybrid working, this must be carefully managed by the remaining needs of the office workspace to ensure teams can be managed and still collaborate.
The challenges of a dispersed workforce
Many employers have experienced both benefits and drawbacks from working from home (WFH) and the new hybrid working model being implemented in many workplaces carries many of the same risks and opportunities.
A new report from non-profit organisation Catalyst, entitled Remote-Work Options Can Boost Productivity and Curb Burnout, finds that employees with access to remote work experienced lower rates of burnout and higher rates of productivity.
The report showed that WFH increased innovation by 63 per cent, work engagement by 75 per cent and organisational commitment by 68 per cent.
Nevertheless, it is easy for employees to feel detached from their work at home and for employers to have concerns about their team’s work.
Trust is an integral part of the employee/employer relationship. In the Neuroscience of Trust, a study published by Paul Zak, he found that employees have 50 per cent higher productivity when trusted and 74 per cent of employees say they are less stressed.
There are clear benefits to placing trust in a dispersed workforce. However, we continue to see the development of technology solely focused on the micro-management and monitoring of teams at home.
Although not quite at the level of George Orwell’s Big Brother from his novel 1984, key loggers and even webcam monitoring have become a feature within some workplaces.
It is easy to understand the concerns of employers and businesses, but these ‘draconian’ measures can alienate a workforce or place additional pressure on already high-stress jobs.
The cloud solution
Cloud computing has become an essential part of many of our lives. From the photos and data stored on our personal cloud accounts to the trillions of bytes of digital information held online by banks, businesses and other financial institutions.
The cloud is also entering our working lives, most commonly through the programmes we already use to work remotely, such as Microsoft’s Office 365.
However, the cloud offers a better opportunity for facilitating trust and collaboration that could eliminate the need for constant monitoring.
The audit and accountancy profession is one industry that has embraced WFH but it is also one where security and oversight are important.
Audit teams require careful monitoring to ensure the right processes and controls are followed.
In a traditional office setting, this is quite simple, but with a geographically spread-out team, it is not quite so easy.
For audit leaders, this additional complexity has created new challenges. However, a growing number of practices have embraced cloud technology that provides a relatively ‘hands-off’ approach to the management of audit teams.
Our solution, MyWorkPapers, offers just such an opportunity. It carefully helps firms monitor workflow and assess documents as they are added to our software during the audit process.
With everything stored and accessible via a single solution, it is easy to review each staff member’s work and amend it if necessary, regardless of where each person is located.
As work progresses, different tasks can be approved and marked in an ongoing checklist. If an area of weakness or a delay in the process becomes evident, audit managers and partners can quickly resolve these issues.
This single point, from which all work is monitored, reviewed and completed, allows individual employees to proceed without the need for key loggers or more extreme monitoring measures.
However, it isn’t just a tool designed exclusively for remote workers. In fact, the beauty of cloud systems such as MyWorkpapers is that it is just as valuable to those working in an office.
Thanks to the cloud it enables seamless integration between both work environments, and for each individual to be both as productive and flexible with their work patterns as they need.
I would definitely mention best practice, in that it ensures best-practice processes are followed regardless of our working preferences and choices
Ultimately, it ensures the work is done on time and to the required standards by reinforcing best-practice processes by maintaining them regardless of each person’s working preferences and choices.
Maintaining quality, safety and efficiency is what clients value and what they predominantly pay for.
However, as importantly, it also restores trust in your team. They don’t feel constantly monitored. What’s more, the automation within cloud solutions frees up their time, helping them to work more productively and effectively.
Cloud solutions really are the ideal solution, regardless of where and when a person chooses to work. It seems inevitable that they will become an essential tool in many hybrid workplaces.
The cloud and the advantages it offers have an important role to play in many industries. How businesses implement these solutions could be key to how effectively they managed an increasingly dispersed workforce.