The UK Office of National Statistics reported that in April 2020, 49.2% of the working adult population were working at home as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For many this change to homeworking was welcome and many have predicted that after this crisis is over, the office set-up as we know will be dead.
Benefits of Home Working
There are many benefits of remote working for employees, although these can ultimately benefit employers as well:
- More time – According to the UK Government’s modal comparisons, on average people commute for 58 minutes a day. In 100+ days of lockdown, more than 100 hours have been saved in commuting per person, without considering driving to meetings, being stuck in traffic, and the associated petrol and parking costs.
- Home-life balance – Another benefit is being able to spend more time with the family as commuting times are eliminated.
- More flexible working – Homeworkers can dress down when working from home and are also able to combine into their day all the annoying things which normally required a day off work; such as a workman coming to do some work, a doctors appointment or a delivery.
- More productive – Without the constraints of the office environment, or the distractions of the office, people are working smarter. According to the Jabra and Opinium survey, 56% of workers who had not worked from home prior to the lockdown, felt they were much more productive. Other new homeworkers have found they are more focused and because of the more flexible approach are generally happier and more relaxed.
Cons of Home working
There are however some challenges associated with homeworking, which need to be addressed if remote working is going to become the new universal norm.
- Isolation – Employees can feel cut off from their work colleagues. However, with regular contact, scheduled meetings and even virtual drop-in ‘water coolers’ this can be reduced.
- Longer hours – Without the act of physically leaving the office, separating home and work can become more difficult, and some home workers have found they find it difficult to switch off and end up working longer hours, weekends and evenings.
Death of the office?
A Jabra and Opinium survey showed that 70% of workers who hadn’t worked from home prior to the lockdown thought that there was no longer a need to have an office space;
- 52% of 18-34 year olds preferred working from home.
- 53% of workers with children under 18 wanted to continue working remotely.
- 53% of workers were pleased at not having to commute to work.
With employee preference and satisfaction suggesting a move from office working to remote working could be the future, how would this benefit the employer?
- Cost reduction – The main benefit will be the reduction in overheads. Office space per employee can be reduced due to more agile working also reducing maintenance , energy, and other associated costs.
- Wider skill set – Without the limitations of location it would be easier for employers to employ team members with the skills they need regardless of location. It may be even more common than now in the businesses of the future, to have a team all working on the same project from within different time zones without the high relocation costs.
But despite the preference to work from home for some employees, the office still has a key role to play in modern business.
Long Live the Office
For decades, the office has been a staple of many businesses, and acts as the professional ‘face’ of an organisation, reflecting the ethos and branding of a company.
The office is a place to have client meetings, run training sessions, as well as the place that team building happens and staff relationships are built. The office is where your people can come together to do their most creative and innovative work, bouncing off each other in a way that is just not possible on Zoom or MS Teams.
Having a physical office space also adds a certain degree of legitimacy to a business, and potential clients are more likely to trust you if your buildings and workplaces clearly reflect and support your brand.
Following the current crisis when staff are allowed to return to the office and business will continue as normal, it is unlikely that the office will become a relic of the past.
If it is to survive, however, the office will need to go through a phoenix-like transformation to make it a valuable workspace of the future.
Progressive organisations will investigate how the office can enter the new business world of the 21st century based on a number of factors.
- Location – No longer will it be essential to have prime real estate in central London, or other expensive cities, if most of the staff can work from home. Cheaper, smaller and potentially more attractive office space could be used in regional areas instead.
- Improved employee experience – Through careful evaluation of what work can be carried out remotely and what tasks have to be carried out in the office environment can offer staff a level of flexibility to work from home if they prefer. Flexible working conditions make for happier and more productive staff.
- Team building – A centralised office space is an essential aspect of building an effective team. Meeting people face to face, brainstorming or simply talking can produce a tighter-knit team who will work productively together both in the office and when working remotely.
Thinking in new innovative and flexible ways is the future to creating a post-Covid office environment and blended remote working model that works for organisations and their people. If you would like to investigate what options could be available for you and your business give LCMB a call to find out how we can help.