Home vs Office: Where to Work? Our Take

Remote working has become a major feature of modern life, but there is a problem. Whilst working from home can bring productivity gains for many, the biggest problem remains the human factor – replacing human interactions with digital communication. Read this blog to find out how Zailab plugs this gap into the customer experience platform. The data in this article is from a 2021 report by Owl Labs on Remote Work [1].

The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly changed the lives of BILLIONS of people around the planet, if not every person on the planet. The true depth and breadth of the combined impact on all of our lives are yet to be fully understood, but one thing that impacted all of us was a change in our working environments. As world markets ground to a halt through the imposition of variably-enforced lockdowns, we all had to adapt overnight to a new way of working (and thinking). For most professional service-based jobs, this meant working from home and observing the world outside through news channels and social media posts. It was a strange time indeed.

And this went on for quite some time. The ‘waves’ of Covid came and went, we came in and out of lockdowns, we snuck out to see family, and were unsure about booking holidays, but one thing that became engrained for millions of workers was the establishment of the home as the office. A popular survey of 2,050 full-time workers in the USA has revealed that:

  • 69% of workers worked from home during the pandemic
  • 73% of workers have returned to the office at least once a week
  • 57% say they prefer working at home full-time
  • 83% say their productivity levels are the same or higher when working at home
  • 75% say their mental health is better when working at home
  • 39% of employers have demanded their workers return to the office full-time 

So what does the report by Owl Labs tell us about the future of work environments? Well basically that it’s complex. As people have adapted to the home office, how should employers approach bringing them back to the office in a full or hybrid state, or even at all?

Let’s unpack it.

I think it’s fair to say that the biggest drawback to working from home is skepticism from management about productivity and reduced focus among team members. This is less important for work types where performance is very easy to measure, but for more open-ended roles with difficult performance metrics, it can be harder to gauge. Other drawbacks we’ve come across include and are not limited to:

  • Weaker team dynamics
  • Less oversight from supervisors
  • Inadequate technology and furniture
  • Hampered company culture
  • Difficulties with information sharing
  • Distractions at home
  • Delays in getting assistance
  • Cross-departmental communication issues
  • Blurring the life/work balance

The benefits of working from home are actually quite compelling:

  • Reduced office sizes have brought cost savings
  • Less commuting for employees
  • An improvement in mental health scores
  • Increased contact time between employees and management
  • Workers report increased productivity

There are so many variables to this data, however. The data changes when you break it into age groups, gender, and industry types. For example, men are more comfortable with a daily commute, and women are less keen to return to the office and more likely to relocate for lifestyle reasons, according to the survey. However, the general patterns are largely the same. There are good arguments for, and there are good arguments against.

It’s for this reason that ‘Hybrid Working’ has been a categorical buzzword for 2022 and will likely extend through ’23 and ’24, maybe even forever. Blended WFM-Office arrangements will likely continue and we see this as a very positive thing. It’s extremely important that industry leaders tap into this because how they approach hybrid working is going to impact their human resources and ultimate performance in the long-term. Does that sound weird? Let me explain.

According to the data, it is overwhelmingly clear that employees are looking for future jobs that give them more WFH/Office hybrid flexibility

[Source: Owl Labs 2021]

84% of survey respondents said they were either interested or very interested in flexible working arrangements that don’t require them to be in the office at specific times, and the same percentage responded to being interested or very interested in working from anywhere (as in, you can choose where you work). Employers that decide to ban working from home may be missing out on the best labour in the market.

So what exactly were some of the problems with working from home, and where does Zailab come into this?

According to the data presented by Owl Labs, the biggest issue with working from home seemed to revolve around video calling:

  • 72% struggle to identify who is speaking
  • 70% feel it was difficult to contribute to conversations
  • 67% feel disengaged
  • 63% miss visual cues
  • 62% can’t see the whiteboard
  • 60% say they feel left out

But the biggest benefits to video calling were:

  • 71% found it easier to give presentations
  • 70% found it less stressful
  • 67% found it just as productive as in-person meetings
  • 66% found participation more equal

How is this relevant to Contact Centres?

The data in the bullet points above may seem quite boring, but to us, they tell the same story we’ve been telling for nearly 10 years. Remote working has productive capabilities but people miss human connections. They enjoy the freedom and productivity gains of being at home in their comfortable environment but struggle with how they communicate with one another over devices. This can be extrapolated to all industries and fields. But imagine if we could plug this gap? If you could work from home but feel as connected as ever?

Once again it all comes down to human-human interaction facilitated by technology.

Zailab has you covered. Our AI communication software is all about impressive performance, but more importantly about bringing people together, better. ‘For Humans. Powered by AI’ is our mantra and our Zailab agents live it every day. Omni-channel communications let your agents communicate in a plethora of ways, and our software is cloud-based so our agents can work from the comfort of their homes. Intelligent routing works in the background to pass customers to the most appropriate agent, making call outcomes more successful. Team Leaders can manage their teams over the cloud just as easily as sitting at the end of the same row. Versatile plug-in capabilities mean our agents can easily use Zailab’s communications tools with any other system they need to use for their work. Advanced Quality Assessment tools mean our agents are always getting the feedback they need.

I could go on, but fundamentally what the report shows is that remote working is here to stay, and technologies that are going to do well are ones that plug the gap between productivity gains and the loss of human interaction. This is what we set out to achieve, years before it was ever needed.

Reference:

Owl Labs (2021), State of Remote Work 2021, 5th Annual Edition, https://owllabs.com/state-of-remote-work/2021, accessed 16/06/2022

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