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18.11.2020 Back to Blog articles

Returning To Work, Is Remote Working Going To Become The New Normal?

For years employers have seen an increasing trend and desire around working remotely or from home from their employees. However, as the UK went into lockdown many workers found themselves thrust into the world of remote working whether they liked it or not with the government ordering people to only go out to work if they could not do so from home. In fact, by June 2020, 49% of people did work at home with 86% of workers citing the cause as COVID-19. But as restrictions are relaxed not everyone has been desperate to get back to work. For example, in August, only 17% of workers in British cities have returned to their workplaces. Workers have given a variety of reasons why they aren’t racing back into the main office. These included:

  • Reluctance to use public transport/commute
  • The need for more flexibility in work hours due to less access to childcare
  • The need to self-isolate

Or simply

  • Fear over contamination/infection

It should also be noted that 12% of employees were still furloughed in August were still furloughed in August; a figure which rose to 71% of workers in industries where returning to work may not be possible or financial feasible due to existing restrictions and regulations. This would include a wide range of industries such as leisure, manufacture, motor sales, construction and retail 

Is Remote Working For You?

So now many employees and employers have had the chance to experience remote working and working from home; it is time to ask yourself, Is working from home working for my staff and company? One of the most common issues that workers come across when working from home is balancing or separating their ‘workday’ from their ‘everyday’ or ‘homelife’. In fact, in a recent study, 30.3% of workers reported working more hours than usual.

The most common issue workers face when it comes to adapting to working from home is the handling of distractions. How well a person can handle distractions will commonly dictate the number of hours they work; although as noted above this falls into rough thirds between working more hours (30.3%), working less hours (34.4%) and working around the hours you were contracted. As a result, some employers are reluctant to continue facilitating employees working from home simply due to the risk of lower productivity and quality of work.
The most common distractions employees cite when working from home include:

  • TV
  • Telephone (personal phone calls)
  • Chores (such as shoving the washing machine on)
  • Pets

And of course...

  • Family/children

That said, many parents have found the option to work from home quite liberating allowing them the flexibility to work their office hours around their home life and children. It has also been found that women were more likely to work from home regardless of external influencing factors such as the COVID pandemic.
In short, the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers and employees to address their attitudes toward working from home and adopt a remote working strategy. This experience has been met with mixed results. For example, some employers and employees cited a range of benefits to remote working including:

  • Reduced office costs
  • Increased staff retention
  • Environmental benefits
  • Higher morale
  • Wider talent pool
  • Safer working environment

However, some business owners are still concerned that unwatched employees or limited access to resources may offer reduced quality and productivity. We all know from experience that it is very easy when working from home to fall into some bad habits which can ultimately affect overall productivity as well as the quality of your work. However, striking that balance between work and home life is a lot easier said than done; although many companies find the ultimate compromise through “remote working” or by having a defined remote working model in place.

The Influence Of Technology On Remote working

The influence of technology and communications on our society has paved the way for remote working. From simple apps that allow the office phone system to be linked to your staff's mobiles to cloud storage and coworking platforms, the options are endless. Businesses who have embraced the resources and technology available to them have found fewer issues from employees working from home or remotely.

The Human Element

A key issue many employees find when working from home is the lack of the ‘human element’ of a person's desire for feedback, connection and comradery as well as collaboration. Admit it, we have all found the advantages of being able to ‘discuss over a topic’ (whether it was work-related or personal). Companies can quickly address these issues through utilising technology, creating both a formal and informal communication structure. These could include:

  • Digital coffee breaks for teams
  • Interdepartmental activities/game such as a weekly virtual pub quiz
  • Video Conferencing
  • Collaborative tools such as file sharing and notes

Many businesses can encompass a range of these technologies through an LMS (learning management system) which can be as complex as desired. This allows a business to provide a singular platform for all office conversations (formal or informal) including a range of mediums including video, voice, chat forums, collaborative tools, project management, time reporting and gamification

Another option is to encourage employees to work remotely from facilities such as shared office space which offers that human element to employees while still allowing more flexibility in working hours and location.

The Correlation Of Job Speciality and Technology Usage When Working From Home

Due to the nature of some occupations, roles with higher qualifications and experience are likely to find it easier to adapt to remote working and working from home compared to elementary and manual occupations. This is typically down to the types of technologies these roles utilise. For example; in a recent study 69.6% of professional occupations were found to do an element of their jobs from home with executives, senior management and other professionals whose median earnings per hour were between £21.97 and £44.08 are the most likely to work remotely or from home are the most likely to work remotely or from home. That said, this rule does not apply to all professional occupations for example dentists, doctors and firefighters and many others in ‘keyworker’ fields.

Finding A Compromise

As companies try to adapt to new working conditions many employers with offices based in some of Britain’s major cities will find encouraging staff back to the office a little less straightforward; regardless of the implementation of handwashing stations and enforcing social distancing. For example, 91.6% of people working from home in London do so as a result of COVID 19. However, a large number of employees commute an average of 59 minutes to work every day to work every day, with Londoners travelling 1 hour 19 minutes each day.

With this in mind there is a compromise between working from home and working in the city center office…..remote working and office sharing. By accessing remote working offices employers can be safe in the knowledge that their staff are away from the numerous distractions at home, helping them to define their workday from their every day while ensuring staff have access to all the technologies and resources they require. Regardless of whether you are working from home, working remotely or returning to work in the main office there are always options available to and compromises required between employers and employees.

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