There’s no doubt that attitudes towards the traditional office have changed. As employees and employers have proven throughout national lockdowns and the times in between, they are capable of operating from a remote location, with some companies even experiencing a rise in productivity.
With this in mind, it’s understandable that nine in ten employees are calling for remote working to stay when we finally do reach the end of the pandemic.
While we’ve explored the benefits of remote working before, it’s vital to revisit this topic regularly to truly understand how remote work is impacting industries, companies and employees as time moves forward. Before looking deeper into the latest research, let’s begin by looking at what “working remotely” means today.
Working remotely explained
We’re using countless terms to describe our new working environments and what they could become in the future. From remote working to working remotely, WFH, distributed, working anywhere, hybrid and flexible – they’re all part of our lexicon now. To put it simply, remote is a way of working that enables people to work outside of the ‘traditional’ office. The thought behind it is that professionals don’t need to be in a set place to be successful and productive.
When we use the term “working remotely” we tend to refer to it in a temporary sense. The (hopefully) temporary scenario of working remotely during a national pandemic. Or like in the Old World when we might have worked from a cafe for a couple of hours in between client visits.
The majority of workers in the UK are currently working remotely from home – at least until this lockdown lifts. Regardless of where we’re at in the pandemic, all of these terms come down to the same thing: workers don’t need to be in the office all of the time.
During the first lockdown, we looked at the benefits of working from home. Let’s recap some of these and see whether recent findings give us any further insight.
We don’t need to stick with 9 to 5 to achieve everything we want. People are finding that because they are working remotely they can choose when they want to work. For many this means higher levels of productivity. Click To Tweet
Flexible for the win
One of the most widely reported benefits of working from home is that we don’t need to stick with 9 to 5 to achieve everything we want during our working weeks. People are finding that because they are working remotely they can choose when they want to work. For many this means higher levels of productivity. In fact, only 7% of employees want to return to the office and 45% say this is because flexible hours improved their work-life balance this year.
Savings across the board
This isn’t just for employees, but businesses too. People are saving money on travel costs by working from home and getting rid of their commutes, especially those who fork out for annual train fares. According to findings from money.co.uk’s OK Commuter report, employees on average could save up to £4,000 by working remotely permanently.
Businesses can also save money by lowering overheads. At the start of the pandemic, companies with flexible workplace arrangements already in place found it easier to switch to fully remote when lockdowns came into place. This is likely why we are seeing organisations such as insurance giant Aviva closing offices and implementing hybrid working arrangements.
Productivity improved nationally
There are statistics out there right now which show both the positive and negative impact working remotely has on productivity, so it’s hard to know what to believe. On a national level, the latest findings from the Office of National Statistics tell us that productivity for the third quarter in 2020 grew by 3% when compared with the same quarter a year ago. This is a difficult one to truly measure as productivity comes down to the individual, the business and the technology they use.
What about working remotely in the long-term?
While findings tell us there are many benefits to working remotely, there are disadvantages to this style of work. Almost half of UK workers have experienced loneliness as they worked from home for a long period of time. On top of this, businesses have experienced security challenges as they hastily adopted solutions. These are just a couple of the issues employees and organisations face despite the multiple pros.
As a result, many businesses are considering the idea of hybrid working for the future, comprising the options to work remotely or in the office, depending on what type of collaboration individuals need. The UK Workplace survey from Gensler tells us over two-thirds (67%) of the UK workforce would prefer a hybrid work model. Employees see this as a positive step in maintaining control of their work-life balance whilst keeping physical contact with their organisation.
What works for one company or person may not work well for others. It’s vital for companies to understand the data that tells them about employee preferences and productivity and the impact this has on morale, wellbeing and company growth. What’s clear is that over the past 12 months we’ve experienced the many potential benefits of remote work. As a result, remote work will play a much greater role in the way we organise workforces in the future. It’s critical that we use our experience and the lessons we’ve learned to create better working conditions for the benefit of all.
Originally published Jan 26, 2021