The world witnessed a significant historical change in 2020 with not only our lives being altered but also the business market. The pandemic changed the ways of working dramatically with a significant amount of UK residents working from home during lockdown (1). Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, working from home or flexible working was increasing in popularity with a lot of business leaders recognising its potential. The data, collected by the ONS, showed that 25.9% of employees were working from home at some point during lockdown which is doubled from the 2019 figures (around 12.4%)(1).
With the pandemic, the importance of a sustainable and a better work-life balance gained a different importance. A report from The Gazette found 2 out of every 3 workers who wanted to leave their jobs in 2020 cited their decision was based on a desire to have a better work-life balance (6). When discussing the different ways of working, there are both pros and cons that must also be considered when working remotely and well as ways to improve you work-life balance.
One of the biggest benefits of remote working is the flexibility it offers employees. This includes improvement on work/life balance, which can provide positive impact on mental health. There have been reports of improved employee retention and increased productivity rates with employers, reporting less sickness absences, less need for extra holiday days and increased staff motivation. (3) Around 77% of people who work from home a few times per month show increased productivity, with 30% doing more work in less time. (3) The majority of remote work can lead to less interruptions, quieter space in terms of noise more efficient meetings.
The financial benefits for both employees and employers has also been proven to be a big incentive with both parties saving on office space, bills and travel costs. Thus, eliminating commute work can result in an increase efficient use of time.
Regarding monitoring concerns, working remotely can have the advantage of analysing on performance. In an office setting there can be “false positives” and bias with, for example, coming in early or leaving later can look like that individual is working more. However, actual performance can be measured using the appropriate KPIs and can be a better indicator of productivity (4). Interestingly enough, technology has made it easier to work remotely. With the internet and the use of many different platforms, it is now possible to fully work from home and make communication between colleagues significantly better.
There are some challenges attached to remote working which include broadband speed problems and the lack of employers implementing the appropriate platforms to facilitate communication and executing work. An issue some companies faced was regarding confidential information security risks. With employees working from home, employers had to ensure there were measures to protect data.
Some employers stated that working from home created a difficulty in monitoring performance caused by the lack of implementation of the right work tools. As employees were physically away from the office, the practice of setting goals and targets and measuring them had to be adapt to working remotely. (4)
Probably the biggest critic and negative side of working from home is regarding mental health. As mentioned before, working remotely can significantly improve the staff’s mental health but it can also do the opposite. Individuals may feel disconnected from their organisation and their colleagues which can lead to feelings of isolation. A quick solution for this is to ensure that communication is constant and regular including informal catch-ups. In addition to this, some remote employees may feel burnout. Because an office gives a very clear physical change and distinction between home life and work life, without that separation employees may find it difficult to switch off which can increase stress and potential burnout.
If you feel that you’re struggling, reach out to your friends and family and don’t be scared to ask for your employers help as well. For more advice on work-life balance, you can download this guide.
Regardless, a significant number of people are still set to work remotely beyond the pandemic recommendations and rules with almost 30% of UK employees planning on working from home occasionally or permanently after the restrictions end. (1)
In conclusion, working remotely doesn’t suit everyone. Some people prefer working around other people and a within a busy and collaborative environment and other people prefer to work at home in a quite individual environment. Hence why some employees report burnout and others report an improvement in productivity levels.
The most important thing is to focus on what is best for the company and the style of work that every individual person has. Another rising practice is the so-called hybrid working, which is a mixture of time in the office and working from home. This is believed to be a growing request among employees (5).
1 - Report
2 - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52567567
3 - https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/advantages-and-disadvantages-employees-working-home
4 - https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/benefits-of-remote-work/
5 - https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-8-4-million-were-working-from-home-last-year-as-pandemic-struck-12309068