On 23 March 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a national lockdown, with the directive ‘Stay at Home’.
The order extended to every component of life, with working from home a command unless absolutely impossible.
With déjà vu occurring in both October and January, many workplaces opted to continue their work from home policy throughout 2020, and into 2021.
While home working isn’t new for all, data from the ONS suggest that pre-Covid, only 8.7 million people had ever worked from home in their current role – less than 30% of the workforce.
Similarly, research carried out by Leesman suggested the UK was one of the least prepared nations when it came to home working, with 55% of the 139,778 British workers surveyed reporting little or no experience working from home.
However, the Covid-19 enforced necessity has provided an opportunity to reimagine how businesses run and employers work, and 9am-5pm office days could be a thing of the past.
Google recently announced its work from home policy will extend to September 2021, with plans to accommodate home working and split home and office based work indefinitely.
Likewise, social media giant Twitter stated as early as May that employees who wished to work from home forever would be permitted to do so.
Many smaller businesses have also followed suit, with savings in rent and commuting cited as irresistible benefits.
Forbes reported that 44% of workers would even take a 10% pay cut if it guaranteed they could WFH forever.
And workers don’t just favour working from home for an easy ride, as Internet provider Talk Talk’s study claims millions are more productive in their homes, with their bosses agreeing.
What’s more, the study suggests that employers have also opted to learn new skills in lockdown, with 18% working on their IT and digital abilities.
Zoom saw sales rise fourfold, as the video conferencing company became one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic, allowing businesses to stay connected whilst ordered to stay apart.
Despite this, some firms do see challenges in abandoning office-centric working altogether, with others seeing a hybrid approach as the future.
Technological difficulties, despite the boom of Zoom and usually reliable Cloud software, are a hang-up for those considering the fate of their workplace.
Some miss office culture, and, worry their workforce lacks culture at all when meetings and get-togethers are hosted via Webcam.
It can also be difficult if not impossible to manage worker wellbeing when at home, and likewise for employers, many work beyond designated hours simply because it is there and they can.
Bloomberg even reported that, due to the blurring of personal and professional life, WFH culture had obliterated work-life balance.
Predicting is impossible in the era of coronavirus, and it is likely that some businesses will return to 9-5 normality while others will favour flexibility.
Working from home was novel to many workers but as each day passes, a colleague-filled office may seem as alien and thus attractive as the pub.
Working from home: CheaperGroup’s top tips
Whether it is here to stay or a pandemic enforced stopgap, many businesses remain home-based into 2021.
Therefore, we have compiled our top tips to ensure you and/or your workforce cope while working from home.
- Encourage a healthy and segregated workspace where possible, with separation from areas used for relaxing key.
- Loneliness can be symptomatic of working from home, so making time for check-ins and staff briefings is imperative.
- Find the best technology to aid your business, whether it be Microsoft Teams, Google Drive, Slack, Soapbox etc.
- Make sure you are aware of any tax, National Insurance, and reporting obligations.
- Encourage wellbeing practices such as Yoga, meditation or even the likes of Dry January and Stoptober.
- Sharing calendars will make is easier for people to check in on one another, or know when others are available to assist with any concerns or issues.
- Act as if you are going to the office – establishing a routine such as showering and getting dressed can help establish a healthy routine.
- Ensure that if your business is producing waste while working from home you are disposing of it safely and correctly.
- Finally, be understanding. It is a difficult and unprecedented time for ourselves, employees and colleagues, and exercising compassion will only aid business.