Working from home: A guide to creating a healthy and productive workspace at home Pt 1
Co-Vid and Remote Working
Remote work is used to describe any work that doesn’t require you to travel to an office.
The term covers people who work from home, whether that’s a couple of days a week or full-time. According to the Global Workplace Survey 2019, flexible working covers this too, but includes a third feature:
Working from a different city or country
Working from home
Working with no fixed hours
You’ll often find the terms flexible and remote working used interchangeably, and companies will vary hugely in what they offer their employees. Some might allow you to work from home once a week; others might have all staff working in different cities. However you work, it’s impossible to ignore how much workplace flexibility has improved.
Around 62% of firms globally report they have a flexible working policy in place.
This guide focuses on remote workers who are based in their own home, and the unique challenges this presents. It’s become a more popular way of working as there are plenty of benefits for both employers and employees.
You don’t waste time or money travelling to an office.
You can schedule your work around family life.
It can have a significant impact on your quality of life.
But it’s not always easy, especially if you have to adjust from the traditional 9-5 in an office environment.
How coronavirus has affected our working routines
When the government announced we’d be going into lockdown on the 23rd March 2020, workplaces had to adjust quickly. The British public could only go out if necessary, for food, medication or exercise. Unless your job was critical to the coronavirus response or you were a critical worker, you’d be working from home for the foreseeable future.
Amidst a lot of confusion, businesses and employees needed to adapt quickly to carry on working and provide the same services as before. For many, working from home was completely new. But it was to be the norm for a while as lockdown required us to stay home.
It wasn’t until 10th May that some measures would begin to be lifted in England, allowing those who couldn’t work from home to go back to work. This included people in construction or manufacturing roles. Employees were encouraged to travel to work by driving, walking or cycling and avoid public transport where possible.
And employers were working with government advice to create safe workplaces. For example, many were urged to implement staggered working hours to reduce any risks.
As more measures were lifted, including non-essential shops opening from 15th June, more people returned to work. At the time of writing, many workers were still based in their homes. Many office or desk jobs just don’t require people to work from an office, so it’s been safer for them to stay at home for as long as possible.
Throughout the pandemic, it’s been clear a return to normal will be slow. Many people are hoping there could be permanent changes in the way we work.
In one poll of 1,000 UK employees working from home because of the pandemic (but who aren’t typically allowed to or do so no more than once per week on average):
68% feel they are either more productive or equally productive from home.
31% said their work-life balance had become easier.
There’s a lot to be positive about with how companies who are new to remote working have handled the change. Considering how quick the transformation had to be, and the technological and cultural challenges, many businesses deserve credit for their adaptability under the pressure. But all of this makes the following stats more surprising:
47% said their employer would revert to previous policies and ditch widespread remote working once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
28% said they don’t think their employer would go back to inflexible working.
Of course, it’s great to be optimistic about remote working being here to stay. The pandemic will have impacted the way we think about work in the years to come. But there’s a real possibility companies will fall back into old habits, reinforced by many respondents predicting their employers will move away from the changes created.
There are some legacy industries that might struggle with the infrastructure and logistical changes needed to handle a significant change to remote working – for example, accountancy. But there are plenty of companies, including any at the forefront of digitalisation, which can build flexibility into the way they work.
The general message is that while it’s tempting to claim flexible working will be the new normal after COVID-19, it’s not that simple. Providing all remote employees with a productive workplace is a complicated task for organisations.
After all, working from home during the coronavirus pandemic has been an experience which many employees have found stressful too.
Another survey, again of 1,000 adults usually working in an office, found:
57% of people felt more stressed working from home, compared with 18% who felt less stressed.
52% felt more anxious working from home, compared with 14% who felt less anxious.
So why do many of us find it hard?
Well, it has been a challenging time in general. Trying to work through a global pandemic brings its own stresses, but there are aspects of working from home which would be a challenge post-COVID. For example, interruptions from those you live with or getting the right work set-up. It’s an adjustment that has to be considered by both employer and employee.