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This summer’s heatwave has hammered home the importance of remote working

This summer’s heatwave has hammered home the importance of remote working 3

This summer’s heatwave has hammered home the importance of remote working 4By Evgeniya Fedoseeva, the founder and CEO of GenerationKM

As Europe burned in the heat over the last two weeks, most people just did their best to get through it.

In the UK at least, trains were cancelled and some public services closed, but the general feeling was that so unprecedented were the temperatures that any longer-term measures were uncalled for.

“Do we need maximum working temperatures?” was a question quickly posed, and just as quickly dismissed.

This attitude was understandable but betrayed two oversights. It showed that employers weren’t necessarily grasping the full and very immediate implications of climate change. We can certainly expect to see more extreme weather in the years to come.

It also revealed a pervasive disregard for disabled people in the workplace. It’s a reality that the heat poses many more risk factors for disabled, immunocompromised and vulnerable people.

Given the advance warning from the Met Office, businesses were quick to take the sensible and most minimal steps like adjusting office hours to avoid travelling at peak times and adjusting dress codes. However, a general disinclination to give workers the opportunity to work from home just underscored once again the disconnect between executives, managers, and the staff working for them.

While working from home might not have been the best option for everyone in recent weeks, people should have had the option. The problem is remote working has fallen drastically out of favour in the months since lockdown measures dropped away and employers ordered their workers back into the office. But this move has been a huge step back for disabled workers, for whom remote working was a lifeline.

I really believe the reluctance to allow remote working highlights a wider cultural problem. Given the technological solutions that are available, workplace inclusivity for disabled people is shockingly poor, and there is no excuse. Affordable or even open-source technology we are fortunate enough to have now could enable the workplace to be more vastly flexible and inclusive. The problem is cultural. Employers shouldn’t drag their heels to delay progress.

I speak from experience. I founded GenerationKM during the pandemic whilst shielding due to clinical vulnerability. Our clients all had to transition to a digital workplace, almost overnight. As Knowledge Management (KM) specialists, we helped firms digitise and bring about the functional capacity and cultural change you need for successful remote and hybrid working.

One memory from this time vividly stands out at me, at a virtual diversity event, a woman who was a wheelchair user said to me, that in all her career that she had never ever felt so included at work since the turn to full remote working in lockdown.

This should be a shocking revelation. But for anyone who has ever ticked the disability box when applying for a job at an ostensibly inclusive firm will know, many businesses just are not politically motivated to do more than the barest legal minimum when it comes to disability inclusion. Instead of prompting some reflection in the upper tiers of management, when lockdown ended it was like flicking the switch back off.

It is also very clear when you listen to people’s gripes about digital working, that it’s inefficient, or that collaboration suffers or that processes or lines of command become blurred, that they are not talking about a digital workplace at all. They are talking about a poorly-implemented digital workplace, put in place without proper planning and training, often in a reactive and disconnected way, or without a holistic view of future business and individual needs.

It has become clear in recent months that not all executives feel motivated to implement hybrid working properly. It’s no secret that many wanted to snap their fingers and have workers all back in the office full time. Workers called for flexibility, and hybrid working happened by itself, sometimes with minimal planning about logistics. Other execs cared a great deal about moving ahead and making hybrid work, but perhaps the know-how or budget was lacking.

I know because I practice it, and I help clients do the same. With good KM, with the right tech, and culture, trust and connectivity, everyone can feel empowered and included, and there is no need to make demands of people that put their health and wellbeing at risk.

This makes it all the more frustrating when on a nearly daily basis, on LinkedIn or business blogs, people vent about the trials and tribulations of remote working as if they are innate and not the consequence of lack of planning.

This summer’s heat has again forced the issue to a head. If people were capable and wanted to work from home to preserve their health, there is no reason why they shouldn’t have.

The great, mandatory return to the office after lockdown was in so many cases a lurch backwards for accessibility and inclusion. Technology enables balance and flexibility; it is our working culture that does not.

The future of working is digital, hybrid, and most of all, gives workers their choice.

About Author:

Evgeniya Fedoseeva is the founder and CEO of GenerationKM, and a global knowledge management specialist. She is an expert in implementing digital workplaces and hybrid-working solutions. 

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