Is the work-from-home revolution a good thing?

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When the pandemic struck last year, thousands of workers began working from home for the first time. It’s changed the world of work and this situation could be here to stay.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, around a quarter of workers are currently working exclusively from home. Many more are mixing work from home with heading to the office. While the shift is in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses globally have announced their intention to make it permanent. Workers at the likes of Adobe, Facebook, and Yahoo may never set foot in the traditional office again. Others, including Nationwide Insurance, have revealed they plan to maintain a blended model in the long term.

Research from Deloitte predicts that homeworking will quintuple by 2025. The prediction was made after 98% of financial directors from Britain’s largest companies said they expect the rise in home working to continue in the coming years.

Working from home could become the norm within some industries, but is that a positive thing?

Employees enjoy the benefits of working from home

Working from home comes with many benefits. From having more free time without the commute to saving money by eating at home, employees are often enjoying the benefits it brings. Some even argue that without the office distractions, they’re far more productive than they are in a traditional place of work.

Research reported in Forbes suggests that while there are challenges to working from home, employees are keen to adopt it long term:

  • Eight in ten employees said they agree they enjoy working from home
  • 60% said they felt less stressed when working from home
  • 66% thought they were more productive.

Employee engagement with their workplace hasn’t declined significantly either. In a survey that questioned more than 500,000 workers, employees scored 79% on an engagement index when in the office. While you may think being physically away from management, colleagues and the office would have a negative impact, it only declined marginally to 77%. The findings suggest that it is possible to maintain company culture and a sense of team spirit even when getting together in the office isn’t possible.

From a business point of view, working from home could provide opportunities to cut costs by getting rid of costly city centre offices or downsizing.

Young workers could be left behind

One of the challenges of remote working is creating a team atmosphere and passing on knowledge and skills effectively.

If the trend for exclusively home working continued, it could harm the development of young workers. A quarter (24%) of young workers agreed that working from home made them feel less connected when questioned as part of an Aviva survey. Even those that are enjoying working from home could find that it harms their professional development, with far fewer opportunities to connect with more experienced colleagues or engage with other stakeholders.

Introverted personalities were also found to be negatively affected by the move to home working. A third (36%) said they were concerned they weren’t having enough face-to-face contact with colleagues. They were also more likely to be concerned about their firms’ being an enjoyable place to work in the future and worry about job security.

Debbie Bullock, wellbeing lead at Aviva, commented: “A third of employee wellbeing and satisfaction levels are determined by personality types. Personality is fixed but resilience can be developed in employees, and managers are in a great position to ensure their colleagues have the right skills and confidence to grow in their careers during this continued uncertainty.

“A little insight, the right conversations and skill-building can go a long way to help identify when people may need more support.”

Striking the right balance

While homeworking provides plenty of opportunities, businesses and teams must be mindful of the downsides too. Making efforts to ensure that teams stay connected and communicate effectively, as well as facilitating professional development opportunities, are crucial for not only employee wellbeing but for business success. Firms that plan to truly embrace working from home will need to find processes that suit them and their employees to strike the right balance.

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