In 2020 employees started working from home, by 2021 many office workers may wish they hadn’t!
Could home working employees be on the start of a slippery slope to a P45?
Or in other words, ‘Should I be less worried about COVID than my job security in the new normal?’
All we seem to hear from people is how they like working from home and how it is more efficient.
However, it is worth thinking about the risks that working from home brings to employees in particular.
We see 3 risks in working from home that could ruin our plans!
The 3 biggest risks/consequences are:
- The long term efficiency of working from home.
- Increasing Off-shoring even in the SME sector.
- The impact on succession, talent management and diversity.
The third is more manageable for the firm but probably more important to the individual.
There is growing evidence that time gained from reduced commuting and the ability to do healthy things improves our quality of life.
The Chartered Managers Institute (CMI) provided some good insights of the surprising benefits of remote/home working.
This in turn makes us more focussed and we work harder even when we have to overcome the failing digital meetings, poor mobile signals and the like.
Agree with the premise? then what’s the problem?
If we’re more efficient, the new normal offers our employers opportunities to reduce costs. Simply put, until the economy recovers, businesses need to cut costs to repay debts or consolidate in an uncertain market. But;
A more efficient workforce = a smaller workforce for the same output = lower overheads!
Normally this wouldn’t matter unduly as the job market flexes all the time. There are usually jobs out there and plenty of churn but in 2021 this digital awakening will present as a systemic issue.
All office based firms will be desperately seeking efficiencies and probably go digital and cloud based!
Using COVID terminology:
If the first wave of job losses comes with the end of the government furlough scheme and its successors, the second wave in 2021 will be plain redundancies.
How might this happen?
To avoid redundancies some firms may cut pay first – we’ve already seen it in the news. The CMI conducted a member survey 15-18 Sep and reported that 18% of respondents had seen pay cuts in their organisations. Also, 48% of firms reported that they were prepared to make pay cuts if required.
Companies will argue that employees save on commuting costs, business clothing and eating out. Therefore salaries can be pared back.
The insurance implications for the big firms are significant as fewer buildings, reduced staff, lower employment liabilities, human factor risks etc will all offer savings. Ultimately, businesses can further reduce their risks, to someone else’s problem…
This is usually thought of an issue for multi national companies only and applicable to specific non-core service functions. But let us consider the worst case scenario leading on from the digital explosion and working from home.
Many big firms have put millions into enabling working-from-home environments for those who are able to enjoy this new normal.
But if your employer can enjoy lower office costs then does it matter where their home ‘office workers’ do their work?
In the past decade we tried off-shoring a lot of the customer facing staff into Indian call centres for example. Customers didn’t much like it though and so many firms are bringing these service roles home.
However, the off-shoring business model is not broken.
So, off-shoring or out-sourcing overseas those non-customer facing staff is perfectly achievable. The savings could be even more significant if data and health risks, which may result from remote and disparate home workers, are reduced as risk resolution is likely to become more litigious.
As a home worker, the global pay differentials and the high cost of living in the UK may play into the hands of a business off-shoring YOUR JOB!
Succession and Talent Management
While you may not be a lover of the office and prefer home, is everyone at home? Do you miss those brief opportunities to bump into the Boss’s Boss and make an elevator pitch or simply just get your name out?
They used to happen to me every now and then, but what about Jane/John, they’re still working in the office, they’ll get higher visibility etc. etc. JEALOUS or WORRIED well you probably could be.
This is a two-way street though. In the other direction, Managers will be worried about people’s performance because people can blag their way through a 1 hr Zoom call and say everything is on track, no worries!
Aside enhanced career mapping and meeting the boss on occasion, how will we improve our meagre social group/life without those trips to Subway and the chance encounters in the lift or Leon?
Face time is important but body language, composure and chance opportunity are also key decision and career influencers. I’m pretty sure I’d be looking to get back to the office if I were a senior line manager or below.
However, it is not all doom and gloom!
In 2021, the solution is more likely to be blended working or SOHO (Shared Office – Home Office) which would mitigate the job security risks of remote working.
The quirky nature of connectivity and brevity required in digital exchanges could level the diversity and equality playing field. This could better support a meritocratic workplace. You are what you deliver with less emphasis on how you appear to deliver it etc.
The economy could also benefit from people re-skilling. There are plenty of well paid jobs in the skilled trades and an acute shortage of people in this high demand sector.
Skilled trades people deserve all our respect and we should not belittle traditional skills. Skilled workers often earn significantly more once established than the average graduate.
For insurers, the risk profiles of businesses will change and new policies will be developed to meet these changes. This provides a unique and timely opportunity for insurance innovation!
If you think your job might be at risk, earnings protection insurance might be an option for some people. You can speak to a broker or search online to learn more about these types of insurance.