For over a year, the UK workforce has been urged to work from home where possible. But with the end of the pandemic in sight, when will bosses call their workers back into the office? Or could we in fact find ourselves working from home on a more permanent basis?
A survey of just under 1,000 firms by the Institute of Directors (IoD) found that 74% of companies plan on maintaining the home working model post-Covid. Why? Because many businesses have woken up to the benefits of having their teams based remotely. From cutting the cost of office rents and unnecessary overheads, to boosting overall productivity, 2020 has proven to be ultimate test-run for a working from home future.
Before Covid, only 9% of the UK population ‘sometimes worked from home’, but now the figure has more than quadrupled. And the majority of workers seem to be happy about the prospect of continuing – 40% say the pandemic has made them realise that they had a poor work-life balance and will not return to it after Covid, while 83% now feel they no longer need an office to be productive.
But it’s not all good news – according to the Office for National Statistics, homeworkers tend to work longer hours and take fewer sick days, meaning there’s a greater risk of poor team morale or employee burn out. Roger Barker, director of policy at the IoD, warns:
“Remote working has been one of the most tangible impacts of coronavirus on the economy. For many, it could be here to stay. Working from home doesn’t work for everyone, and directors must be alive to the downsides. Managing teams remotely can prove far from straightforward, and directors must make sure they are going out of their way to support employees’ mental wellbeing.”
One way of avoiding the pitfalls of home working while still staying out of the office could a ‘hybrid working’ model. This alternative means the old five-day week of office work is replaced with more flexible arrangements, such as three days at home and two on site. Top recruitment agencies predict mass roll outs of this new way of working, signalling one of the biggest shake ups to the nation’s 9 to 5 in modern history. James Reed, chair of Reed, one of Britain’s leading job search companies, said the effects of the pandemic on the way people worked would be permanent:
“We are seeing huge changes. There is no doubt from our conversations with employers and the types of jobs being advertised that the pandemic will lead to lasting changes in the way we live and work.”
However, one man doesn’t seem to be so keen. Last month, Boris Johnson sparked controversy by suggesting people have had enough “days off” at home during the pandemic and should try to go back to their offices. Not only did it cause alarm among virologists, it also prompted industry spokespeople to remind Number 10 that those working from home are still very much working.
So, are you looking forward to heading back to the office? Or have you always been team WFH? And in your opinion, is working from home here to stay? Comment below on your thoughts on whether the five-day week will ever truly return to ‘normal’.