Life is almost returning to how it once was before the pandemic. But we will never look at things the same way as we did before, such as shaking hands, touching rails on the London Underground, and returning to the office to work after working from home for a year. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the proportion of people working from home has doubled since the pandemic started. In 2019, 12.4% of people in the UK had reported that they had done some sort of work from home. In 2020, this figure was 25.9%. Now that working from home is now considered normal, employees are starting to question their bosses when they ask for them to return to the back to face-to-face work.
Although the future is looking bright for employees to be returning to the office, many businesses are still opting for workers to stay at home and work remotely. 44% of employees have expressed that they want to remain working from home remotely at least 3 days a week and 65% of employees are wanting more in-person time with their workforce. Businesses are weighing up the pros and cons of remote working to see if this type of work can be sustainable for the future. Navigating a business after the COVID-19 aftermath can be considered the biggest challenge. Some companies dislike the thought of letting employees work from home but had to allow this way of working during the pandemic because it was a requirement within their country’s laws. Some workers may even feel nervous going back to the office after working remotely after a long period of time away. Working from home was a change that many were open to because it was something they had never been allowed to do with the role they’re working at in their job.
There are several advantages for employees working at home for a business and the employees, rather than going into the office.
Cost-Effective – The cost of running an office for a business can be expensive, depending on the location of the offices, bills, and the size of the workplace. This can be apparent in central cities such as London. Shutting down the offices means those costs are now negated as employees are now using their own supplies and machines at home and they might be able to tax relief.
Commuting is no longer a problem – As mentioned above, the dreaded commuting to the office is no longer needed when working from home. According to research from the Department of Transport in the UK, 18% of public transport usage in 2019 was used for commuting or business purposes. That is over a quarter of all trips and equates to 1.49 billion trips. 68% of workers typically travel to work by car and 10% take rail services. Working from home saves the average worker £126 per month due to travel and lunch costs. Money is not the only thing that workers lose when commuting but also time. The time spent travelling to and back from work is something they will never get back. This doesn’t include the time spent getting ready and traffic jams. Working from home allows workers to be in bed to the desk within minutes and allows everybody to hit that snooze button on their alarms one extra time.
Lower Absenteeism – When employees are working from home, they are more trusted by their managers as they are not being closely monitored. This can give workers more motivation to work and decrease absenteeism as they are allowed to work in ways that they feel are more comfortable and suits them best.
Manage your own workspace and schedule – When working from home, you can fully customize your workspace to your wants and needs specifically. At the office, it can be dull and inefficient in the way in which things are laid out for your personal needs. The office might be too cold or too warm for your liking. Is the chair too uncomfortable? At home, you can use your laptop on the sofa for a more laid-back setup.
However, some businesses see working from home as detrimental to the business and some workers prefer going into the workplace for multiple reasons:
Transferring The Company Culture Digitally - Company Culture is an important factor in how a business is running and it can be extremely difficult to retain when all your workers are not in the same room. Interactions at the office are what forms the culture, as people change their behaviour and values based on the environment around them. Bonds are relationships that form naturally when you see your co-workers every day at the office. This can include small talk about what you did over the weekend or gossiping. Working from home has limited these interactions to just people they work directly with, rather than a wider range they would interact within the office. Communication about goals and contributions need to be clear when working in a virtual environment. When workers were asked what they missed most about working from the office, the most common response was small talk (57%) and collaborating with other co-workers as a team (53%). When working virtually, management skills must be stronger as it can be hard to coordinate employees and respond to every query in a timely manner. Management will have to find solutions to connect workers across the company rather than just direct colleagues. These solutions can be organising events at the end of the week, such as a games day, together and encourage everybody to bond, and weekly meetings between staff and managers.
Distractions around the House - Distractions are always a huge topic when it comes to talking about working from home. Some managers may be worried about distractions as they are not constantly there to be monitoring their employees. But the truth about being distracted at home is a myth. Wherever your working environment is, there will always be distractions. At the office, there will be co-workers distracting you with conversations outside of the work topic, which started off as an on-topic discussion. At home, your main distractions maybe your family, significant other, or pets. You - yourself can also be the main distraction out of everything. This can include spacing out for a couple of minutes, staring outside a window. Distraction has such a negative connotation towards it, but it is actually positive in the workplace. Everybody needs to get distracted sometimes and can be used as a mini break before your actual lunch break. Research suggests that the average person is only productive for 3 hours out of an 8-hour working day. This is because the average attention span of a British person is around 14 minutes. The brain cannot always be constantly working without some sort of break in-between to rest. So don’t beat yourself up about getting distracted as it is a natural occurrence for everybody and is part of a good work-life balance. A work-life balance is when you can equally balance your work and your personal life. The balance between them is not an exact set schedule that will work for everyone and that they can follow, but rather it is your own personal timetable that varies person to person. Where one person may value more family time, another person may want to spend more time on their own leisure activities. Here are some methods that may improve work-life balance for employees:
- Relax after logging off. You don’t always have to feel the need to be busy
- Create a dedicated workstation. Separating your workspace from the rest of your house can help you separate from a work mind state
- Ask for help when you need it. You don’t need to do everything by yourself
Are you too flexible? - The flexibility that comes with remote working can be seen as a double-edged sword. Working from home can allow more sleeping hours, more exercise, cost saving etc. Flexibility is in full control when at home. It can even reach further than just managing the workspace but also how you manage your day. A common tactic that workers use is getting all the tough, brain-heavy tasks out the way first so that the rest of the working day can be eased into. However, it can also make an employee feel that their working hours are never-ending, and they are now expected to work harder than usual. This is due to transport to work is cut out, so the travel time is now replaced with extra hours logged in or more meetings. An old-fashioned technique that was used to measure productivity was how long workers stayed in the office. This was a flawed system as it favoured younger employees without families to go home to. According to research from Microsoft, time spent on Microsoft Teams for meetings has doubled globally. 54% of people feel that they are overworked and 39% feel exhausted. Feeling fatigued from work while at home can negatively affect an employee’s mental health as they might feel alone with no one to talk to. Whereas, in the office, there was always a co-worker at arm’s reach to talk to. Managers and leadership roles should use this as an opportunity to stress the importance of mental health awareness and offer workers resources that can help their wellbeing.
As it looks today, the blended model of hybrid working is here to stay for now as the future looks foggy with many people around the world feeling sceptical about the vaccines. Both working from home and working at the office have their pros and cons and they can be used together to fully maximise productivity of a business. The points mentioned above should encourage all businesses and their managers in leadership roles to offer all their employees hybrid working opportunities. It is a clear important factor for employees and can fulfil the needs of both working at home and meeting up at the office. The digital workspace will have to be an long-term investment to allow higher levels of remote working such as analytics for productivity to “bridge the gap between the office and working from home”. That leaves the question, what do you think about working from home?
I hope you have enjoyed reading about the shift from working at the office to working from home and the long-term impact it has had on the world post-pandemic. Feel free to share this post; we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.