Coronavirus has turned our lives upside down in this unfamiliar year where many of us have been working from home.
In April 46% of UK employed individuals did at least some aspect of working from home, with 86% of these people saying that this was because of coronavirus. This dramatic increase in employees working from home has been due to unfortunate circumstances that we are in, however it is not all bad news.
For many years CB Benefits have been endorsing the benefits of giving employees more flexibility and freedom to work in an environment that is more suited to their lifestyle. While we have been seeing more employees working from home over the years, the progress has been relatively slow. It has felt like companies could not fully commit to releasing control over their employees. When coronavirus struck it forced the hands of companies to facilitate their employees to work from home, and guess what? Companies have discovered that they can trust their employees! Productivity and output have remained consistent for many companies, and in some examples, there has been an increase.
While in today’s times it is a relatively smooth transition from working in an office to working at home, you only have to look back 20 plus years to see that it would have been almost impossible for many to make the transition. It begs the question… How many jobs has Bill Gates saved?
The birth of an IT Superpower!
You do not have to look to far back in history to find that computers were not something of the norm in households. In 1985 an estimated 13% of households in the United Kingdom owned a home computer. In 2018 this figure has jumped to 88%. This large increase in home computers and becoming something of a household staple in today’s times, has been a large part to do with the rise of Microsoft.
Microsoft back when it was founded in 1975 wanted to change the way people live with regards to technology. Their vision was clear “Our mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential by creating technology that transforms the way people work, play, and communicate.” This mission was masterminded by co-founder and one of the most influential people in the IT industry, Bill Gates.
Bill Gates born on October 28th, 1955, grew up in Seattle, Washington. At 13 he enrolled into the private Lakeside prep school and here would show his first real interest in computers. Back then, it was not common for computers to be available at schools for the students to use. However, Lakeside prep school would make a deal with a Seattle company for the use of their computer through a teletype link to the school. Gates would jump on this opportunity and begun writing his first computer programme on the machine. Gates would meet fellow student Paul Allen and they would work on the computer together at every opportunity. When Gates was 17 himself and Allen founded Traf-O-Data, its objective was to provide traffic engineers with roadway encounters data. It was not long after this that he began his next adventure, enrolling into Harvard College in the Autumn of 1973. While at Harvard studying Mathematics and graduate level computer science courses, he met Steve Ballmer. It would turn out that years later Steve Ballmer would Succeed Gates as CEO of Microsoft. Gates dropped out of Harvard after 2 years as himself and Allen saw an opportunity for them to start their own computer software company.
Microsoft started in 1975 when Allen and Gates began a partnership together named “Micro-Soft”, being a combination of microcomputer and software. Their first office was in Albuquerque, New Mexico and it took less than a year for them to drop the hyphen and officially register the trade name as Microsoft.
Microsoft’s first big break came when IBM the leading supplier of computer equipment at the time, approached them in July 1980. IBM needed an operating system for their upcoming personal computer and would eventually come to an agreement with Microsoft. Microsoft would not make a huge amount of money from this contract, but the exposure would transform them into the largest software company in the world.
What made Microsoft successful and continually grow in stature, was their ability to make smart business decisions. Looking at areas in the market to exploit or move into, typically making good partnerships with other companies in the industry. Perhaps more crucially the leadership at the top from Bill Gates. Gates was known for working exceptionally hard and pushing his team to meet those same standards. He was also extremely competitive in everything he did and built up a reputation. An Atari executive showed Gates a game and would beat him almost every time. They met again not long after and Gates won or tied every game, he had gone away and studied the game until he solved it. Microsoft adopted this same character from Gates, always looking to improve and solve problems.
What is the future for working at home?
Now that we know working from home is here to stay, how do we envisage the future? Some well-known tech CEO’s have started making tough decisions regarding the situation we are currently in. CEO of Twitter and Square, Jack Dorsey, told his employees at both Twitter and Square that they can continue to work at home “forever”. Another very well-known tech individual, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has followed suit and said that his employees may also work from home.
With so many companies having employees working from home, what can employers do to make it easier and more comfortable for employees?
Communication between colleagues is crucial for the day-to-day running of a business, using the likes of Zoom, Teams and Google Hangouts to communicate together. This will help employees stay connected with the business and any contacts they have. Making employees homes more suitable for a working, will help to make them feel more comfortable while working. Things like computer desk, chairs and any other work-related equipment purchases, can really help employees’ transition into the work from home life. Overall, it is important to work together as a business to make sure everyone involved is comfortable and equipped to make that change in their working lives. It’s also important to have regular channels for checking in with people’s health and wellbeing. One of the things we’ve found as a company, is without a physical presence, it’s harder to establish if someone is finding life hard. The body and how we carry ourselves tell us a lot about our emotions.
Employee Benefits Post COVID-19
In these unprecedented times, the landscape of employee benefits is changing. Benefits are perhaps being valued differently so it is more important than ever that employers look at how they can look after their employees in these troubling times.
Fit for homeworking Employee Benefits
We have been having discussions with a number of companies about the role of their Employee Benefits during this exceptional time.
A key part of many discussions has been around the means of maintaining the employer and employee inter relationships whilst many employees are homeworking.
There are numerous cost-effective means to increase engagement. This includes reviewing benefits that have less effect whilst working from home: methods of helping your employees in their current home working environment: and new and interesting ways to connect with employees.