Why Haven’t we Gone Back to the Office?

The post-pandemic workplace looks vastly different to the offices of pre 2019. Lockdown ended some time ago, but the after-effects live on, mainly in the way that we’re now, as a nation, working. Most offices have new flexible working policies, and will soon be adapting the way they approach flexible working requests too, once the governments proposed Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill is passed. New legislation will give employees more freedom to request flexible working arrangements- and with it, it’s predicted more will be seeking to work form home rather than make the daily commute into the office. So why is this way of working becoming the norm, and what implications does it have for business as a whole?

 

Working from home works

Nobody was really sure how things were going to pan out when the first lockdowns were announced and offices closed their doors. Lots of us were forced to muddle through with zoom calls and email as our only way of speaking to colleagues, but we soon found that this way of working actually made sense.

According to this report, just 1.5% worked from home in 1981, rising to 4.7% in 2019. In Jan/ Feb 2020, that figure had risen to 5.7%, before making a gigantic leap to 43.1% in April 2020. It’s no surprise though, and most expected the numbers to drop just as dramatically as the lockdowns began to ease and the world began to open up again. But actually, the numbers aren’t really returning in the way we all expected them to.

Recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows that more than 8 in 10 workers who were forced to work from home during lockdown now plan to hybrid work, and the figures for this have risen from 13% in early February 2022 to 24% in May 2022. 30-40% of workers reported working from home in the last seven days, and the highest earners are the group now most likely to work this way. 78% said that working from home improved their work-life balance, and 52% said they were able to complete their work more quickly at home too. 47% said that hybrid working and working from home had improved their wellbeing.

What does this tell us? Working from home works- and not just for employees.  23% of businesses now say they will continue with hybrid working , although this does vary by industry. 54% of businesses in the information and communications industry said that home working will soon become a permanent plan, stating that reduced overheads and increased productivity along with improved staff wellbeing has been a major driving force behind this decision.

 

We’ve invested in this way of working

Another reason why working from home might be here to stay? We’ve invested in it. A lot. Businesses have provided staff with new equipment, webcams, laptops, office furniture and more.  And its not just financial investments. We’ve spent time and and energy learning how to use Zoom, Teams, Dropbox and other apps and programs that make it easy and efficient to work from home. Everything we once needed to do in an office, we can now do at home.

Of course, these have been wise investments. Now, employers can have their pick of the talent pool and cast a much wider geographical net when recruiting. Employees no longer need to be able to travel to work; they just need the equipment you provide, and they’re set to go.

 

We’re moving towards a more inclusive society

It’s no longer unusual for a person to request flexible working arrangements. It’s no longer deemed detrimental to career progression to want to compress your working hours, or to work from home. We’ve seen that this way of working can be beneficial to all, and we’ve realised that work-life balance is important. Staff well-being is crucial and being flexible is vital for success.

We’re cultivating a better, more inclusive society- one where everyone matters, and every working pattern can- and should- be considered. The benefits of commuting are just not cutting it anymore, and that’s a fact.

 

What are the implications of working from home?

True, there are still adjustments that need to be made. We no longer need as much office space. We need to learn how to manage from a distance, and how to navigate the sometimes complex nature of hybrid working arrangements. We also need to adjust our way of thinking when it comes to home working too.

Employees are choosing to work from home because it works well for them. They enjoy it. They want to spend more time with loved ones, family and friends without a stressful commute each day. And we need be looking at other ways in which the well-being of staff could be improved. How can we make the hybrid working model work for us all, to keep all staff supported and nurtured, despite the geographical distance?

We need to ensure we set clear expectations, encourage an inclusive culture with those who do choose to come in to the office and those who don’t, and communicate clearly and openly. We need to actively work towards equality in the workplace, and involve home workers in all aspects of office life. We also need to make sure we continue to recruit wisely, build a team that will work well together, no matter where they’re located.

For more advice and guidance on how to make working from home work for you, get in touch today.

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