The days when most people left home each day for their place of work is kind of behind us now. The evolving cultural, industrial and technological aspects of life continue to transform the ways in which certain types of businesses are run, and the ways in which people work.
Before COVID-19, at least 5% of people were working from home. During 2020 though, it’s been more like 50% of people working at home, when the lockdown was at it’s most severe, according to Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist. As I write this in November, apparently, one in three people are working from home.
COVID-19 has sped up what I think was an inevitable shift to more people working from home, and companies have had chance to see how well it can work for them and some of their workforce.
Working more from home is definitely here to stay
Reports are showing that people are generally happier, not having to commute and put up with crowded public transport, and feel that they have more control over their working lives.
Of course, there are elements that aren’t as enjoyable. People can miss human contact, for instance: bouncing ideas off colleagues, the feeling of being part of a team etc. After COVID-19, some people will have the best (and worse) of both worlds by working just part of the time at home.
A survey of 958 British company directors in September 2020, by the Institute of Directors has found that nearly 74% intend to continue with increased home-working after COVID-19.
More than half said their organisation intended to reduce their long-term use of workplaces, and over 40% said that workers working from home was more effective than their previous set-up.
Looking ahead, it seems more and more companies will take a blended approach to where and how their workforce works.
Does working from home affect productivity?
The output and productivity of people who are now working at home doesn’t seem to have suffered. This is likely because many people are happy to put in a bit more (or a lot more) time per day, partly due to not having to spend time commuting.
Cardiff University and the University of Southampton did research into the effect of home working on productivity. They found the results “largely positive”.
During the first 2020 lockdown, they conducted three surveys – each including more than 6,000 people across the UK. The research found that almost 90% of workers wanted to continue with some degree of home working long-term… And almost 50% wanted to work from home full-time!
41% of workers said that they felt as productive working at home in June 2020 as normal. 29% reported getting more done at home, and the other 30% said they were doing less. So 70% seem to be getting just as much, or more work done from home.
Those who would like to continue working from home, even when social distancing rules don’t require them to, are among the most productive. So preventing them from choosing how they work in the future doesn’t make economic sense. Giving employees flexibility on where they work could be extremely beneficial for companies as they attempt to recover from the impact of COVID-19.
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