When lockdown was announced in March, all “non-essential” businesses closed their doors, the UK saw 28% of its workforce furloughed and a phenomenal 60% of its remaining adult workforce pitch up offices at home.
After three months, we have seen lockdown ease, furloughed staff start returning to work and non-essential businesses reopen.
While it may look like life is returning to ‘normal’, the reality is that for many of the working population, life will look quite different compared to before lockdown.
As we’ve previously written, businesses will need to make adjustments to ensure the office is safe for employees to return. However, it is not just a new office layout employers will need to adopt, but a new attitude towards home working.
With more than half of the non-furloughed UK workforce operating from their private residences, working from home is certainly a trend we expect to see continue post-lockdown.
Working from home is not ‘new’
From January to December 2019, the Office for National Statistics reported that of the 32.6m Britons in employment, approximately 1.7m mostly worked from home, equating to 5.2% of the workforce.
In comparison to workers across the globe, in particular the USA, the number of homeworkers in the UK is exceptionally low. In 2017, Gallup’s Report ‘State of the American Workplace’ found that of those surveyed, 20% worked remotely all of the time. This number has only risen year-on-year.
Comfort vs productivity
For many businesses, working from home was not an opportunity previously given to staff due to implications with systems and the fear of decreased productivity.
Liz Ryan from Forbes wrote “they (office managers) may assume that an employee who’s working from home is watching TV soap operas and eating bon-bons instead of getting their work done.”
Despite the assumptions made by some employers, a survey by Finder.com found that 65% of workers felt more productive working from home, and two-thirds of employers reported increased productivity for remote workers compared to in-office workers due to fewer distractions.
A double-edged sword?
Working from home has its benefits for employers and employees alike, such as:
- More flexibility for appointments
- Fewer interruptions
- Little to no commute time or expense
- Increased productivity
- Less office space required (and lower costs)
However, working from home can also come with its disadvantages, with many employees struggling with:
- The lack of human interaction
- Finding it hard to switch off
- Developing unhealthy habits
As with most things, there is good and bad, but the most important thing is finding a balance which works best for both the employer and the employee.
Will you continue working from home?
As businesses and offices reopen, we are interested to see the number of employers who will introduce a working from home policy once lockdown is lifted and how they will implement the change – in particular, facilitating collaboration and monitoring productivity.
While we anticipate many workers will have suffered from ‘WFH fatigue’ and are eager to return to the office for a change of scenery, it will not be long until requests for flexible working conditions start to emerge.