It is hard to believe that two years ago we were in lockdown here in the UK. Restrictions at the time meant we were only permitted to leave the house once per day to exercise, unable to meet with friends and extended family, and frantically turning to remote alternatives as a result. I remember taking anti-bacterial gel with me when leaving home so that if I had to touch anything (a gate, or the handle of a door) I could quickly sanitize my hands.
Remote working was mandatory at this time, in accordance with government rules. Large office spaces, usually bustling with activity, were vacant and teams moved online to sustain productivity. I have to admit, it feels rather surreal thinking back to that time now, even though it was just a few months ago.
Thankfully, the worst of COVID-19 has now passed in the UK but for us here at Lithe remote working has remained a feature of our working practices. Internally, we refer to this as hybrid working.
What does Remote Working mean for Lithe?
Shortly after we were allowed to return to work, we issued an All-Staff employee survey, to evaluate how everyone felt about returning to the office. The results were pretty emphatic: people enjoyed remote working. They were spending less time travelling to the office and felt that there were times when working from home was more productive than being in the office.
After further consultation, we decided that the best solution for us was a “hybrid working” model. There would be flexibility around when people came to the office, but an expectation that everyone would spend at least a few days in the office each month. These would typically be days were working together with colleagues in person would be beneficial, such as project kick-offs, bi-monthly progress reviews and one-to-ones with their manager.
We have embraced hybrid working for around a year now. So, enough time has passed for me to form some thoughts on any positives or negatives of this change, from both a CTO and personal perspective.
Remote Working from a CTO’s Perspective
The well-being of our Lithe team is paramount. We want healthy and happy team members, and if people feel happier working from home most of the time, then we want to try very hard to accommodate that. We have had almost a year now to put this into practice, and I think ultimately, we made the right choice to adopt “hybrid working”.
Our model is very flexible, with no mandated set days in the office. The success of this model is that we are not asking anyone to travel or come to an office for no other reason than being in the office. If people feel that they can be more productive remote working, or prefer working from home for certain activities, then why force them to come in against their own good judgement? We trust our people to make the right decision for themselves and their work.
Perhaps rather unexpectedly, there is also an even stronger notion of “team” within the company. Tools such as Microsoft Teams make it easy to keep on top of work and projects and gives really good visibility on what everyone is working on in their group. It’s also easier to use Microsoft Teams to have confidential and/or personal conversations that wouldn’t happen in an open plan office, where you’re never sure who is around or can hear the conversation.
It’s hard to gather empirical evidence on this (for obvious reasons), but I do hear stories about colleagues checking in on each other and making sure that from a personal and professional level everything is ok, or if they need any help. This was especially important during the pandemic, where I think almost everyone had some sort of situation to deal with. I’m delighted that our people are really looking out for each other, especially those they work closest with.
The flip side to this is that we have to work harder than before for cross-team rapport. Colleagues who are in different teams now have less potential to have those un-planned conversations that would have traditionally happened while making a coffee in the kitchen, or even just walking past someone’s desk and having a quick “Hey, how was your weekend” chat. Building cross team relationships really helps with collaboration and communication within the whole company, so I’m definitely keen to continue to focus on that over the coming 12 months. In order to ensure the shared identity of working for Lithe remains as strong and powerful as before remote working, we have arranged a series of virtual social events. These events, along with more traditional in person events like our Christmas night out, will hopefully help us retain that shared Lithe identity.
Impact of Remote Working on Business
For our customers and suppliers, the use of virtual meeting software such as Teams, Zoom, make it easier than ever to regularly meet, share updates and information. This ensures we’re working together as efficiently and successfully as possible. The pandemic rapidly accelerated the adoption of this type of software (not many had even heard of “Zoom” in early 2020!), to the point where it’s now so ubiquitous that it seems we can have a virtual face to face meeting any time, any place. We really enjoy talking to our customers and helping them solve whatever problems or issues they may be facing in their organization.
It’s also made business a little more personal. During the period of remote working, we were all invited into each other’s homes, so to speak. We saw dining rooms, studies, bedrooms, and the occasional child or pet! The conversations that sparked from these little windows into each other’s lives really helped from both a personal and professional perspective. The ability to ask, listen, empathize, and adapt conversation to what someone may be experiencing really helps the individual. As a bonus, the workload can also be managed so that the best outcome is achieved.
Remote Working from a Personal Perspective
From my own experiences with hybrid working, I’m massively positive about the change. Although, it does have a few downsides, these are significantly outweighed by the positives. The main win for me is simply spending more time with my family. I’d normally spend two hours commuting each day, and only some of that could be used productively. Now I have extra time to talk to my wife and children in the morning, and even make the occasional packed lunch for a school lunch box!
Perhaps even more importantly, on days when I’m at home we can all have dinner together as a family. Whether my two teenage children see this as a benefit or not I’m not so sure! But it is a chance for us all to sit together, discuss what happened that day, and to be present in each other’s lives. I also enjoy the peace and quiet of working from home, and I do find that I eat more healthily than I would when in the office. The fact that my wife is also hybrid working and can see what I make for lunch may have some impact on my food choices though!
For the negatives, it’s mostly about missing those in-passing conversations, and just getting outside. I’ve had days when I get stuck in front of the laptop almost all day, and with no commute I’m definitely walking less than I used to. I’m having to make a more conscious decision to exercise, including taking up 6-a-side football (soccer, for my US friends) again. Those who have the misfortune of being on my team each week no doubt also see this as a negative!
Overall, I think what hybrid working has brought to me has been the ability to stop and really reflect on how and where I spend my time, and to consciously make decisions about what is beneficial for me, and those around me. That extra time at the dinner table or being there to give the children a hug before they set off for school some mornings is, to quote a famous payment processor’s advertising campaign – “Priceless”.
Adapting to Hybrid Working in your Organization
The majority of organizations have accepted that traditional working models have changed in a post-pandemic world. Remote working is here to stay, with numerous anecdotal and scholarly research reports supporting its extended permeation.
We at Lithe have adapted to this new reality and benefited by embracing an innovative combination of new technology and workforce practices. We have also been able to do something positive for our customers as they too adapt to hybrid working.
While video calling and similar technologies have been great enablers, many people need more and that’s where we can help. If you work in document-intensive business processes, such as claims processing, new account opening, or case management, or if you simply need to get your inbound mail when not in the office, Lithe will boost your productivity when you work remotely.
Lithe Digital Documents is cloud-based software that digitizes and streamlines the flow of documents needed by claims teams, new account teams, case managers, or by anyone who simply needs to get inbound documents or mail digitally.
With speed, simplicity and security Lithe enables hybrid workforces to:
- Improve responsiveness to customers
- Reduce processing times
- Increase efficiency of document-centric work
- Accelerate digital transformation
Contact us to explore how Lithe can transform information velocity in your organization today.