The shift to working from home arrangements for Which-50 readers in digital, technology, and marketing departments has been sudden, dramatic and close to absolute.
Of the more than 30 executives we contacted for this story, 95 per cent said they are not going into the office at all anymore, and that in most cases almost 80 per cent of their staff are likewise working from home.
The change has not been easy.
We asked our readers to comment anonymously on the most disruptive aspect of the change and the most common themes to emerge were a loss of efficacy in communications and frustrations with technology.
“The inability to spontaneously physically crowd together to have a quick meeting or brainstorm has been a big change. We do sync on Zoom and Slack however nothing beats face to face sometimes,” said one.
Others complained of technology issues such as poor bandwidth, mobile phone blackspots and concerns about privacy. Time lost due to technical problems was a common refrain, “lots of wasted time from not being able to access the remote desktop and corporate VPN at times (probably due to too many people trying to access these services). “
Zoom’s well-publicised security concerns were raised in a number of phone calls we had with readers, as were the platform’s abilities to cope with all the extra demand, although readers felt the company was getting on top of these issues as time went on.
Businesses with experience in collaboration tools such as Zoom, but also Slack and Box said these technologies made the shift to home working easier. “The actual dislocation from each other has proved to be more disruptive than we imagined – collaborating in the social sense is important, and takes more work now that we’re offline. We’ve not had to acquire new collaboration tools because we had them already… We could pivot very quickly.”
Almost half of our readers who participated in this story said they had implemented new platforms, and even more, said they had upgraded licenses for existing platforms. One in five said that had taken advantage of free software offers from vendors who moved swiftly to help clients and prospects with the transition.
And few Which-50 readers expect the situation to change any time soon. More than eight out of 10 expect the current arrangements to stay in place for at least three to four months. A third expect to be shouting “Can you hear me” at their webcams for at least six more months.
The human dimension
The personal toll is rated highly. Working from home is proving more difficult than many expected. While many executives are used to home working and have systems in place to facilitate this approach, the real issue is that they are locked at home with children and partners. The lines between professional and personal space are blurring more than ever.
One reader told us, “Everyone, including three school-aged children [are] at home! We are a technology-rich family, but even then, we are still having to share tools and work around each other.”
Another said, “From a technology perspective, my company was already very much enabled, as most staff work from home a few days a week. However, from a human perspective, all the technology in the world can’t stop you from feeling a bit isolated whilst working from home full time and being subject to lockdown rules.”
Many though, simply miss the camaraderie of the workplace, and this is despite the rapid emergence of virtual staff drinks, that seem to be starting earlier each Friday.
“I miss the face to face interaction and the great coffee shop downstairs most,” said an executive how previously worked from home a few days a week.
Too much of a good thing, it seems.