Sometimes it takes an unexpected event to trigger a change in established practices, and lockdown could well prove the catalyst for homeworking becoming considered the new normal.
The years preceding the coronavirus crisis had seen no shortage of research suggesting that remote employees, including home workers, were more effective than their office-based counterparts in their everyday roles. ¹ But many employers were not sufficiently convinced to take the plunge.
Positive lockdown experiences have, however, left some CEOs scratching their heads, wondering why they had previously been spending millions of pounds renting prestigious office blocks when their employees have shown no deterioration in their productivity whilst working from their dining room tables and spare rooms.
New technology has played a particularly important part. Employees have been able to participate in virtual meetings via services such as Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and many employers having figured out effective monitoring methods, using computerised systems to tell them how active employees have been and how many queries they are dealing with.
A recent employee survey by video meetings provider StarLeaf shows that, on balance, the move to homeworking during lockdown hasn’t had a significant impact on the quality of employees’ work and that many employees have preferred the experience to commuting to the office.²
Just under half of respondents say they’ve been able to complete their work to the same standard as previously, with 25% saying they’ve achieved a higher standard and 24% a lower standard.²
When lockdown has fully come to an end, 60% of the survey respondents would like to work from home more often that they used to, and almost two thirds of these would like to do so either two or three days a week. ²
Over half say they would save more money by working from home and 40% say they would take more exercise. Furthermore, an overwhelming 84% say it is either very important or quite important for employers to at least offer employees the option of homeworking. ²
As well as enabling employees to fulfil personal obligations and avoid fuel costs and commuting time, working from home can provide them with a liberating feeling of personal control over their workload and working environment.
So, if employers want to attract and retain quality staff, reduce presenteeism and maximise employee morale and loyalty, it is hard to see how most can afford not to offer the option.
This has proved particularly important for me since I became a mum over two years ago. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that there is no way I would have been able to effectively combine my career with the challenges of motherhood if I hadn’t been afforded this flexibility.
It is hard to see that there are any downsides in my case, especially as most of my pre-lockdown contact with clients took place at their own offices. But being able tailor my hours to fit in with my new responsibilities and being able to work part-time when returning from maternity leave have proved crucial.
I have no doubt that both factors contributed to my winning of the Most Inspiring Returner category in the 2019 Women in Financial Advice Awards – which celebrate the individuals and organisations leading change, breaking down barriers and creating possibilities for equal representation in the world of finance.
However, I readily acknowledge that flexible working isn’t the solution in every single case. Indeed, the StarLeaf survey shows that 24% of respondents want to go back to their normal place of work immediately.²
Some employees, for example, find that turning up at an office at set times every day can help to create a clear distinction between work and home life. Others really miss the camaraderie and banter that an office environment can provide.
Such individuals don’t actually have to take up the option of flexible working but the key is to ensure that they, along with staff who do want to take it up, are at least offered it.
Content correct at the time of writing and is intended for general information only and should not be construed as advice.