Post Covid 19 – Working in the Office vs Working from Home

Covid-19 has changed many things and we believe that UK working practices will look quite different in the future.

The Prime Minister has said it is time for Britain to get back to work as the Coronavirus lockdown comes to an end.

But does that mean normal service will be resumed, or will the pandemic leave a lasting legacy on the way business operates?

With the re-opening of offices and work locations not yet having fully taken place, working from home still seems to be the normal for the time being.

Now that production offices are located in every employee’s home, many company directors will have been impressed with the way their staff have responded to calls to work from home, and will be in no hurry to disrupt this new way of working. Teams have proven they can be trusted to work effectively from home and many workers won’t be in a great hurry to surrender their new found freedoms and race back into the office 5 days a week.  It seems to work well for the company and for most employees.

However, according to the ‘Homework Wellbeing Survey’ carried out by the Institute of Employment Studies in April, just two weeks into lockdown the cracks were starting to show.

Various physical health problems were being reported with nearly 60% of respondents reporting neck ache and leg pain.

Despite this, and while the office remains the principal place of work, the benefits of home working are wide ranging and include:

  • Better work life balance and happier employees
  • Greater productivity due to fewer interruptions
  • Access to a wider talent pool when recruiting
  • Financial benefits and ROI e.g. total office-cost savings

Nevertheless, if home working conditions remain unaddressed, the impact to our employees’ physical and mental health risks a building liability and the potential for litigation, aside from non-compliance with regulation.

One MD has commissioned a survey of UK workers, which found that 69 per cent of workers had actually enjoyed the experience of working from home, and that many bosses feared that asking them to immediately return to their offices on a full-time basis could disrupt productivity.

He says that it is likely that many bosses will choose to opt instead for a gradual return to work, where staff are based in the office on some days, and work from home on others.

The company questioned 1,000 workers about their experiences of working from home, with the vast majority saying they had a comfortable home office from which to complete tasks.

Of those questioned in the survey, 89 per cent say they are now used to working from home and feel equally or more productive compared to when they were in the official workplace.

Forty-three per cent say their own health and wellbeing improved while working from home, while 39 per cent say their time management improved.

While the majority of those questioned say they did not miss the office environment itself, 62 per cent did miss the company of their colleagues, and 45 per cent prefer the routine of spending the working day at a different location.

Tellingly, 56 per cent of respondents say the ability to work from home could be an important factor in future career choices.

As lockdown begins to slowly ease many are keen to get their teams back into the office. However, there is an understanding that this will have to be done gradually with some sensitive handling.

The study shows that many companies helped equip their staff to work from home, with 40 per cent saying their employers paid for items such as laptops to help them work effectively.

Those who face lengthy commutes may be particularly adverse to turning the clock back and returning to how things were before the lockdown began.

Moving forward, most of the company bosses we have spoken to understand this, and many are planning a phased return with team members coming back on a part-time basis initially and working the rest of the time at home.

For some firms, the space requirements of social-distancing guidelines may make it difficult for all employees to return immediately, and many other businesses will be questioning whether they need quite so much office space when many of their staff are happy to work from their own homes.

At Venus, we believe this split of home and office-based work will be the way things remain for many months and perhaps years to come. We also believe the reduced requirement of the physical office will lead to many companies reviewing their accommodation in the future and we expect to see a trend to hub-based working, with many team members based at home and just coming into the office for a couple of days a week or to attend important meetings.

For employers, this might be good news for businesses looking to save money in the wake of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, not to mention the 69 per cent of workers who prefer to work from home.