Many businesses have begun to embrace the idea of flexible working and working from home
In the current climate, more and more of us may find ourselves plunged into doing so for longer than the one to two days a week, which employers and employees adapt to fairly easily.
‘Return to working from home,’ says PM.
On 4 January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson again urged people to work from home wherever possible, as large parts of the UK entered a new lockdown. The restrictions came into effect from 5 January and are expected to last until the middle of February if the situation in hospitals improve. Wellbeing as the key to business recovery.
UK workers ‘more productive’ working from home
Survey of 1,481 UK workers carried out by a company called Cartridge People between June 2nd and June 18th came up with the following:
2020 has found that 40% of UK workers have been more productive when working at home, claiming it gives them a lot more flexibility with their time. Respondents said home working has helped to provide a much better work-life balance giving them more time to spend with family.
The survey also found that:
- Pre-lockdown, 29% were already working from home;
- Post-lockdown, 32% said they would now be working from home everyday;
- 22% work outside of usual office hours when working from home;
- 50% admit to getting more work done when using a home office;
- 54% say they’re happier working from home, compared to 18% who prefer to be in a traditional office environment;
- When working from home, 42% feel they have a good work-life balance. 24% say it can help them work around friends and family with 40% admitting it gives them more flexibility with their time;
- 58% say they never feel lonely when working from home, 14% say they often feel lonely when working from home and just 1% always feel lonely when they’re working from home;
- 60% enjoy working from home and just 1% dislike it;
- Windows that can open is what UK workers (55%) look for most in an office environment.
No plan for a return to the office for millions of staff
Fifty of the biggest UK employers questioned by the BBC have said they have no plans to return all staff to the office full-time in the near future. Some 24 firms said that they did not have any plans in place to return workers to the office. However, 20 have opened their offices for staff unable to work from home.
According to the BBC research:
- 24 companies have no plans to return staff to the office yet;
- 20 firms have gradual plans to reopen office space;
- 3 firms have brought back staff with no plans for more;
- 20 have opened offices for staff unable to work at home.
Half of UK employees worked from home in April
Almost half (46.4%) of employees did some of their work from home during April, with the vast majority (86%) stating this was because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics.
The report highlighted that only 35.2% worked the same number of hours as usual. 34.4% of people said they worked fewer hours and 30.3% worked more hours than they would normally.
The date revealed how women were slightly more likely than men to do some work from home (47.5% compared with 45.7%), while workers aged 16-24 were the least likely to be able to work from home during April (30.2%). This is compared with 54.3% of people aged 25-34 and 51.3% of people in the 35-49 age bracket.
London residents were more likely to so some work from home than people in other regions of the UK. Some 57.2% London residents worked from home during April, compared with 35.3% of people in the West Midlands, which had the lowest rate of home workers during that month.
People in jobs requiring higher qualifications and levels of experience did more work from home than those in manual roles or skilled trade occupations. Some 69.6% of professionals did some of their role from home, whereas only 5.4% of process plant and machine operatives and 14.9% of people in caring, leisure and other service occupations could work remotely.
Home worker or lone worker?
Employers need to be aware that their home workers are lone workers and should be treated as such, particularly when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.
The rise in home working has mirrored the rise in technology. Robust broadband means employees can now check-in with the office from the spare room, coffee shop or just about anywhere with an internet connection.
Benefits to employers are obvious; finances improve as overheads like office space and other facilities are offset as employers provide their own workspace. Workers often report increased motivation from the flexibility that remote working offers, increasing productivity and staff retention.
However, like the railway engineer and security guard the home worker is still classified as a lone worker; something often overlooked by employers.
Heather Beach, Founder of the Healthy Work Company, has been a home worker and has managed home workers for the last three years. She is ready to admit she made lots of mistakes and as a result had to research the topic thoroughly. She has started a Facebook group for those new homeworkers needing support with looking after themselves.
Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of all employees, including home workers.
Why are video chats so exhausting?
Video chat is helping us stay employed and connected. But what makes it so tiring – and how can we reduce ‘Zoom fatigue’?
- Is video chat harder? What’s different compared to face-to-face communication?
- How are the current circumstances contributing?
- When I’m Zooming my friends, shouldn’t that relax me?
- How can we alleviate Zoom fatigue?
The BBC has put together an article entitled, ‘The reason Zoom calls drain your energy‘, which you can read here.
Tips for working from home
There is no doubt that, as well as the anxiety provoked by a potentially deadly virus and no toilet roll or pasta in the supermarket, we are also facing the very likely fact that many workers will be being plunged into home working for the first time, to speak nothing of the potential requirements for isolation.
Some of those workers may already have experience of a day or so a week, but few of them will have worked full time from home and few of their managers will have managed large teams in such a situation either.
A report from the World Economic Forum in 2019 pointed to the fact that a 2017 United Nations report found that 41% of remote workers reported high stress levels, compared to just 25% of office workers. The WEF believed that being ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and the tendency for managers to become increasingly task focused and actually attempt to micromanage more than before was partly to blame.
Conversely, Charalampous et al. in 2018 found that remote working was associated with higher workplace wellbeing with the benefit of flexibility and autonomy.
What we do know though, according to ACAS guidance is that “only suitable people should be offered the choice of regular remote working” (with suitability not just about them as people but also about their home set up). And here we are about to put everyone, suitable or not, into that boat, in an environment which is already highly charged.
The research on how to be a good home worker is mostly focused around entrepreneurs who are accountable just to themselves. The research on how to be a good manager of remote teams is sparse.
Ten tips to avoid stress when working from home.
- Dress for work – it really makes you feel more ready for work.
- Routine – try and establish a routine with regular start and finish times.
- Exercise – Every 25 minutes get up stretch, go outside, go up and down stairs or even get on an exercise bike. Anything to move your poor sedentary body
- Use technology – Use systems such as zoom or teams to meet and talk to others.
- Set up a good workstation – You may not have the perfect workplace but ensure you have a good supportive chair, ensure your screen is at the correct height and you have room for your legs to move.
- Minimise Distractions – Working from home can have many distractions but try and minimise these as much as possible.
- Find a buddy – Often, if stressed, talking to a buddy can help and this can be done by phone or zoom etc
- Getting the right balance – Everyone must remember not to get too task focussed. Life is messy at the moment and employers and managers need to understand and embrace this.
- Home and work life – Ideally you can set up your workspace in a separate room which can be designated just for work. Leave this area at the end of the work day and try not to return to it until the following day.
Keep hydrated – People should drink about 1litre of water a day so ensure you have regular drinks breaks or have a bottle of water with you at all times.