As the pandemic struck, businesses were jolted into adopting a system that required staff to turn their homes into a workspace: remote workers. Since then, the remote model continues to take prevalence in many workplaces, with a plethora of companies closing their office doors for what seems to be the foreseeable future. This transition has left companies and colleagues struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
The roundtable discussion between Paul Coby, CIO, Johnson Matthey; Jacqui Lipinski, CIO, Director of Digital and Technical Services, Royal College of Art; Kieran Higgins, Head of Digital Workplace Transformation, Cisco; delves into areas surrounding the topic of remote workers, as moderator Rosalind Upton, challenges the participants to compare and contrast their experiences.
Building an in-office environment for remote workers
Hybrid or remote? The query of which dynamic holds the best outcome is an ongoing debate.
Jacqui Lipinski touches on the advantages of working remote, stating how there is more time to work on initiatives and read papers; however, she does not encourage a fully remote system.
“I think what you need to do is encourage collaboration,” she explained. “You need to build a culture within a team and it’s really hard to do that if you don’t see people face to face.”
ForPaul Coby, his thoughts differed. He shared his thoughts on how the pandemic has resulted in job opportunities. Johnson Matthey’s headquarters are located in London, but the team expands globally across 25 locations. He touched on the experience of his colleagues, having spent two years working closely with each other, despite never being in the same room.
“Remote working has enabled us to work differently.” Paul said. “To get as many people together in locations around the world to actually build teams is really important.”
He goes on to say that successful remote workers is about three things: technology, tools and teams. Cisco’s Kieran Higgins chimes in, stating “as we move forward, having an effective sustainable home setup is non-negotiable.” The execution of these factors just may be the key to creating a productive environment in your own home, as the workplace takes a step away from employing a five day working model.
Creating the right environment
As the roundtable progresses, Moderator Rosalind Upton asks the participants:
“Given what we spend on an in-office experience, are we giving enough to people working remotely?”
Jacqui Lipinski found that question quite difficult to answer. “Everyone has got a unique home environment, and for some people it’s an option to work at home and some people have had to work in very difficult circumstances.” She mentions how some members of her team have been working from their beds – which is not the ideal workplace environment!
In terms of the technology, Paul Coby believes remote workers are being well-provided for. However, he recognizes that there is a big responsibility on leaders in organizations to acknowledge the different experiences of every colleague.
Enforcing the right policy
So how should organizations invest in their remote workers?
“As a leader you set examples,” said Jacqui Lipinski. “I think sometimes we all work too long, sometimes you have to get that balance right.” She continues on to say that forcing breaks during the day such as changing the hour meetings to 50 minutes with the use of technology and software is something she has witnessed, and feels it would benefit remote workers.
“The investment is not just in better technology,” Kieran Higgins states. “It’s also in the policies.” He then goes on to explain the importance of ensuring that there are those “little air gaps” between work and meetings that would happen naturally when going to grab a coffee, or on their tube journey. This implementation, although small – may just be what is needed to maintain a sense of ‘normalcy’ in what is still considered to be a ‘foreign system’ by some.
This roundtable on remote workers was created in partnership with Cisco.