Working from home has been a breath of fresh air for many
Homeworking is slowly becoming the norm for more and more people. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported homeworkers had risen from an average of 27% in 2019 to 37% in 2020, and there’s little evidence in 2021 to suggest that percentage is going to retreat.
Employers have seen enough through the pandemic to know businesses can thrive under a homeworking model. And the many advantages for workers are clear for all to see.
There are less distractions to contend with, so productivity is up. Their time commuting has all but disappeared, giving them more time to fit in odd jobs and generally enjoy a much healthier work-life balance.
And it also means they’re paying a lot less in expenses, so what they earn can go on more of the things that matter most, like socialising and quality family time.
However, younger workers see things differently
Increased productivity and an improved work-life balance are often dependant on the age group people find themselves in.
According to the same ONS data, workers between the age of 16 and 29 aren’t having the same positive experience. And that’s likely down to the difference in their home working environment.
Younger workers generally can’t afford to live in houses that provide both a bedroom and a separate workspace, especially those that live in London. Which means they’re either working from their bed or sharing a busy communal space with their other flat mates.
Not having a designated workspace makes it harder to concentrate and increases the pressure of being ‘always on’ – it becomes very difficult to separate work life from home life and feelings of anxiety and burnout can start to intensify.
Businesses are missing out on valuable collaborative time
Collaborating has also been made very difficult in the pandemic – ONS data says it’s been the hardest challenge for businesses and people to work around.
Some might argue we still interact and combine efforts virtually through Microsoft Teams and other platforms, but a study by psychologists at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Cambridge suggests it’s not a suitable substitute for the real thing.
After surveying 119 young adults on their mental health, they found ‘there was no association between the frequency of virtual social interactions and well-being.’
Collaborative sessions are vital for any healthy business to thrive. They bring people together, boost morale, and solve business problems that can’t be answered sat in isolation.
Hybrid working strikes just the right balance
Even though working from home in many case increases productivity, there still needs to be a healthy dose of time spent together sharing ideas. What can be mistaken as idle chit chat by the water cooler is often a conversation that sparks an idea or plants a seed for a new project.
Onboarding new team members and training up junior members of staff is harder remotely too. You need that in-person contact to speed up the process and make sure new joiners feel part of an organisation.
So while homeworking is very much here to stay, it’s definitely not the time to say goodbye to the office completely. With too much to give up on both sides of the argument, it would seem a hybrid working model strikes just the right balance.
But employers now have more risks to manage
Whether working in the office or at home, the risks to employees are very different. In both cases, employers have a duty of care to make sure workers have everything they need to do their job safely.
As we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, most of the measures for office workers will be about controlling the spread of disease. Those could include:
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers a number of pages on its website for employers working on getting back to the office safely.
For those working at home, employers need to keep reviewing their homeworking environment and general wellbeing. HSE has another section on its website dedicated to lone workers and the basic issues employers need to stay on top of.
Published date: 5th October 2021
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