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UK & IRE Remote Workers Stunted by Out-of-date Tech and Proficient Digital Skills

29 Mar 2023
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In the wake of the pandemic, businesses across the United Kingdom and Ireland underwent a dramatic shift from traditional office spaces to remote work environments, and it has now been three years since this transition began. While statistics gathered by LinkedIn indicate that six in ten employees appreciate the newfound flexibility of working from home and would like to continue doing so, either full-time or in a hybrid fashion or would heavily consider leaving their current role, numerous companies are finding it challenging to keep up with the technological demands necessary for remote work to continue seamlessly.

A recent study conducted by Virgin Media O2 Business has revealed that a serious lack of investment has been made into home technology and employee tech skill sets. The study polled 1,200 decision-makers from both the public and private sectors, finding one in five respondents reported feeling impeded by a lack of digital proficiency. Additionally, 72% of participants reported that outdated technology had a negative impact on their productivity and efficiency.

One possible reason for this struggle could be the fact that 83% of firms are eager to have their employees return to the office space on at least a three-day-a-week basis. This eagerness to return to traditional office spaces may be due to the belief that remote work impedes output, or the social and collaborative aspects of office life are being lost. Thus, the lack of investment in home tech and digital learning could be an active ploy to encourage employees back to the office.

Tom Madeley, a figure in the tech recruitment world and an enthusiastic advocate of remote working. As the Founder of Realta Associates and Executive Director of Bridgewater Partners, Madeley possesses a wealth of experience and knowledge on the subject. In a recent conversation, Madeley shared his thoughts on the matter, stating that:

‘From my experience, remote working or high-level hybrid working, meaning four days from home has a positive impact on productivity and mental health. With that in mind, I believe that this reduces the need for micromanagement and therefore middle management as employees gain a level of autonomy. Conducting business in this manner means there is a great requirement for trust, along with an investment in high-performing levels of technology and digital learning. I would encourage all capable businesses to explore this.’

A compelling rationale for spending more time in the traditional office setting is rooted in the idea of company culture and the value of collaboration. Many organisations hold the belief that fostering a strong sense of community among team members and facilitating open and frequent communication are key drivers of creativity and innovation. By promoting face-to-face interaction and encouraging the exchange of ideas, companies hope to build relationships and stimulate productive discussions that lead to new insights and solutions. Thus, the notion of spending time together in a physical workspace is viewed as an essential ingredient for cultivating a dynamic and thriving organisational culture.

‘Whilst I would agree that there are certainly positives to be gained from the face-to-face dynamic, the conversations by the water cooler – so to speak, working alongside your colleagues and learning via osmosis and at-desk coaching etc; I still feel the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. There is a middle ground to enjoy. With Realta and Bridgewater Partners, we enjoy remote working but make sure to enjoy some social talk each morning and video calls bookending the week with quarterly meet-ups - usually in some fantastic location; I'd encourage businesses to think outside the box in this way.’

The study's findings underscore the importance of investing in employees' technological abilities and ensuring that they have the tools and resources necessary to perform their job functions effectively, regardless of whether they are working remotely or in a traditional office space. As the world continues to navigate the changing work environment brought on by the pandemic, and remote work continues to be a significant part of the modern work environment, technological proficiency will be a key determinant of success. Businesses that prioritize investment in their employees' digital skills and technological infrastructure will be better positioned to succeed in the years to come, regardless of whether remote work continues to be a significant part of the modern work environment or not.