Fine-tuning our workstyle to avoid a new phenomenon – death by conference call.

Office workers have been catapulted into the biggest ever remote working experiment during the global pandemic. How are employees adapting to the new normal of working from home full time — and how can we fine-tune our workstyle to avoid a new phenomenon: Death by Conference Call?

New research reveals productivity, happiness and office culture are booming with the shape of the office set to change forever:

  • Almost 3/4 (71%) of office bosses are pleasantly surprised by team productivity during lockdown despite more than half (54%) being nervous about their teams remote working before the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Over half (52%) say their organisations are MORE productive remote working than in an office — a surprise to almost 3/4 of bosses
  • Nearly 2/3 (58%) of office workers say remote working provides them with more autonomy to do their job in a way that suits them
  • 1/4 (25%) believe they’ll remote work at least half the time after the pandemic is over (compared to 10% before)
  • 70% of business owners and 78% of senior management agree ‘remote working is the future of my organisation’. 34% of business owners are considering moving to an entirely remote office

Nice to have some good news, especially as the lockdown measures (and remote working) look set to continue indefinitely. The study, conducted by Hoxby, a virtual agency and consultancy on the future of work, also found:

Effective Working: 71% of office workers think their employer is well set up for remote working. Almost 2/3 (58%) say remote working provides them with more autonomy to do their job in a way that suits them, rising to 63% of those in a managerial position. Only 19% say they prefer being in an office.

Happiness: 57% of managers think remote working is good for mental health, with only 14% recognising any adverse effects. Two-thirds of office workers agree that though the current situation is challenging in other ways, they are enjoying the fact that remote work means they can spend more time with their family, rising to 72% of those with young children. Only 8% say teams seem unhappy as a result of remote working.

Office culture: Over half (55%) of office managers say office culture is just as strong as ever, with office chat continuing just in a different form. Only 18% of office remote workers have seen any negative impact.

The future is now
So, will this signal the end of 9–5 office culture? 1/4 of workers think they will remote work at least half the time after the outbreak, compared with just 10% before and 12% of the workforce say they’ll be working entirely remotely after the outbreak, compared to 4% previously.

Before the pandemic, 45% of office workers surveyed were required to be in the office ‘at all times.’ This is expected to fall to just 27%.

How might UK offices change shape?
70% of business owners and 78% of senior management agree that “remote working is the future of my organisation.” The lockdown has led to many reviewing how their businesses are structured. 42% plan to reduce the amount of office space they need. 49% think they’ll encourage more remote working. 34% are considering moving to an entirely remote office.

We still need to fine-tune remote working
48% of office workers admit they’re relying on conference calls too much and would like to learn more about other working practices rising to 63% amongst business leaders. 44% of workers are on conference calls “most of the day”, 54% of those who are managers. Junior team members need more support with set up.

Stuck in the 9–5
It seems we’re stuck in the 9–5 mentality, a throwback from the industrial age. 77% of business leaders expect their teams to work similar hours. Only 12% are trying to buck this trend for their teams, i.e. trying to escape the shackles of presenteeism. 34% of senior managers said remote working was something they wanted to do more of but felt they should be ‘seen’ to be in the office.

Great to see such positive outcomes after just five weeks of lockdown — with no practice run! I hope companies take this on board and rethink how they operate. As the founders of Hoxby, Lizzie & Alex point out, “Changing working practices is about putting people, their lives, their work, their mental health, all of these things centre stage… To avoid the ‘death by conference call phenomenon’ and ‘coat on the back of the chair’ expectations of presenteeism… “Organisations need to keep a watch on remote working practices and evolve and better them by gaining a deeper understanding of technology and virtual leadership.”

It’s time to leave the industrial age behind and adopt digital age working methods to improve diversity, productivity, and wellbeing — happy workers tend to be loyal ones. This shows remote is the future of work and there’s no going back, so it’s just a matter of fine-tuning our methods. It’s is an opportunity for companies to trailblaze with workstyles that are more flexible, more productive, and more enjoyable.

Use this time to get your head around new technologies, build online communities, and do things differently. There are more effective ways of working that may cost less. If it’s working well why would we want to go back to the old way of doing things?

Hoxby has a #RemoteAgainstCoronavirus campaign for a better remote working strategy. I recommend these articles:

Recognise that Remote Working is not the Same as Working from Home

Focus on wellbeing and mental health — The importance of, and practical tips for, looking after your mental health during the crisis.

Don’t be paranoid and start to view success based on output — five rules for leading remote teams.

The importance of building virtual communities and community engagement.

Hoxby’s remote working strategic approach.

Censuswide researched 1,003 office workers currently working through the pandemic between 22/4–27/4/20.

Photo by Georgie Clarke.

The Shift Newsletter

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An independent publication about remote work, creativity, and crafting a meaningful life – created by Nicci Talbot.

Remember Y2K? A year of international alarm and predications of widespread chaos as soon as the clock turned to 2000. Computers would malfunction, banking would go down. Families were holed up in bunkers with 12 cans of spam. NBC made a movie about it

I was in Sydney for New Year’s Eve 1999. I went out to watch the fireworks on the harbour, one eye on the clock, wondering if I’d make it home. 

Thanks to the collective effort of programmers and analysts, nothing major happened. The fireworks went off. Sydney celebrated. I got the night bus home and went back to work at Foxtel the next day. The day’s most historic moment was actually the resignation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. 

There was no Y2K explosion that night, but since then we’ve gone down a digital rabbit hole. 

The internet has revolutionised how we work, rest and play. 

It’s democratised many things. Social media has given us all a voice and callout culture. Free education – why spend a fortune on courses when we have YouTube and podcasts? The net has launched careers and businesses. Meet the influencer economy – the DIY generation who don’t ask for validation, they just do it. Learning on the job and sharing their lessons in public. And they have as much clout, if not more, than mainstream media. 

Journalism runs on a dated, broken business model that relies on advertising, volume, & PPC. That model may be broken, but journalism isn’t. We will always need quality content and storytelling. Digital innovation has forced the industry to be more creative with quality entrepreneurship, long-form writing, and investigative pieces.

Happily, we’re seeing a few alternatives with new media models. Platforms like Ghost, Substack, Patreon, and Kickstarter are empowering creators to write for niche audiences who are willing to pay for curated content that serves them. The last 10 years have seen a flood of content and we can’t keep up. The next step is relying on people we trust to filter good information for us. We’re seeing a newsletter renaissance – reporters setting up their own ‘mini media empire’ and writers have become influencers.

When political leadership is weak, we look to brands to step up – it’s been happening across the world with #BlackLivesMatter. Brands have also become influencers. Netflix, Amazon and Spotify are producing more original content and building niche communities, which makes them less reliant on digital giants. 

I find these new publishing models exciting. There are enormous possibilities for creators to build something progressive that can grow and change, and to collaborate with others.  

This is my next ‘book’.

I’ll be exploring the future of work, creativity, indie business, and the knowledge economy—different ways of living and working, and how to craft a meaningful life. 

If you’re interested in what I’m doing, sign up to be an early adopter of The Shift and help support indie publishing.

I’d love to share your ideas and input.

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Nestlé – The Science of Growing Up Happy

The client: Nestlé Lactogen brand.

The brief: A book on children’s health for 0-5 years. “The Science of Growing Up Happy”. Chapters covered developmental milestones for each period, 0-6 mo, 7-12 mo, 1-3 yr and 3-5 yr. Tips, advice, humour, key information for first-time mums. A full-time project over eight months.

How I did it: Translated scientific texts into an engaging narrative, created tone of voice, to fit the target reader – first-time mums in international markets. I did additional research and made suggestions for topics not covered in the source material. Editing & proofreading. 

Results: Team… It’s been such a long long long journey… from the day we were briefed till today.

A HUGE THANK YOU to all of those that were part of this project, that even with the tears it caused, it came to a beautiful outcome. You can count with us that we will make our best for the markets to apply it and use it the best possible way.

Special thanks to the Publicis Health team – Laurence, Jérôme and his team of fighters – the book is simply beautiful and it became the quality benchmark for the brand.

Nicola and Nicci, I am not a mom, and yet, you made me laugh and enjoy reading about poo and constipation!!

And Mara and Linna, without whom I would have thrown myself out of the window several times… gracias equipo de guerreras dorados!

And now, “grab a cup of tea and enjoy!” Read more


The GCVA blog offers up to the minute news and opportunities for the gift card industry. Our aim is to give you an overview of what’s happening in our sector – from what we’re seeing at the heart of it – as well as giving you an insight into all the different personalities and perspectives via guest posts from our community. Do have a read to stay up to date with the latest industry news and views, and get in touch if you’d like to contribute.

No limits – we aim to keep pushing the boundaries – so enjoy.

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