According to Forbes, the biggest legacy of COVID-19 could well be remote working. Before the global pandemic, only around 5% of full time, office based employees worked at home. Now, however, the number of people working primarily from home is somewhere between 20% and 30%. The figure usually varies depending on the industry and job role.
This essentially means that where you live might not be as important as it once was. Prior to the pandemic, unless you were happy to commute from a long distance, office jobs typically required you to live close to a large town or city. And in some sectors, living near London was practically a requirement. But these days, if your employer allows remote working, you can live just about anywhere - as long as you have an internet connection!
Working From Home After Lockdown
While not all employers have embraced remote working, many companies have started offering hybrid working options. This is where employees split their time between home and the office. According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), after lockdown, 85% of employees who did work from home wished to take a hybrid approach in future. A different survey from the ONS showed that 78% of people who worked from home in some capacity found that they had an improved work-life balance.
Interestingly, while hybrid working has risen since lockdown, fully remote working has decreased. Between early February 2022 and May 2022, the number of people working in a hybrid capacity rose from 13% to 24%, but those working exclusively from home fell from 22% to 14%.
What Does Remote Working Mean for Staff?
Working from home can only be beneficial for staff, right? Remote working means no commuting costs, flexible working options, and employees feeling more trusted. However, there are a few downsides to remote working. We’ve gone through some of the advantages and limitations below, to help you get a better idea of what remote working really entails:
Advantages of Remote Working
There are lots of benefits to remote working, perhaps the most obvious being the flexibility it allows. When working from home, your work-life balance can be improved, and you can work from almost anywhere. Your hours may also be more flexible too - as long as you work your contracted hours, many employers won’t mind when you fit these into your day. For parents working around term times and school hours, this can be particularly helpful.
When given the opportunity to work from home, some studies have found that employees are happier, more engaged, and feel more trusted. For example, Dell reported that their remote workforce were incredibly loyal to the business, and were more likely to promote the company than others. And because they had to be self-motivated in order to be productive, these remote workers felt more trusted by their employer.
Another advantage of remote working is the amount of money you can save on your commute, especially with fuel prices being so high at present. According to a report from Nutmeg.com, on average, a UK worker spends about £50K on their daily commute, over the course of their career. So even if you only work in the office half of the time, you could save yourself thousands of pounds in the long run.
Limitations of Remote Working
In terms of the limitations of remote working, some employees may feel rather isolated when not in the office. If you’re not able to have a face-to-face conversation with any of your colleagues during the day, it could have an impact on your mental health. This is not true for everyone though, particularly as advancements in technology mean conversations can be had online, through things like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.
There is furthermore a concern that remote working will lead to longer hours, and the expectation that employees will always need to be at the disposal of the business. This is sometimes referred to as an ‘always-on’ culture. However, like the potential to feel more isolated when working remotely, an always-on culture won’t be a concern for everybody. It will largely depend on the company you work for, and the expectations of your boss.
What Does Remote Working Mean for Businesses?
From a company’s perspective, there are also both positives and negatives regarding remote working. As many businesses are starting to offer more hybrid or remote work though, it can be assumed that the benefits outweigh the limitations!
Advantages of Remote Working
One benefit to allowing your staff to work from home is that you can dramatically increase your talent pool. If you’re looking for staff across the country, or even globally, you can find a much wider range of candidates, often with more specific skill sets.
It may surprise you to learn that employees can be more productive when working from home. Harvard Business Review found that in a call centre environment, those working remotely completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office. This increase in productivity was attributed to factors such as a quieter work environment, and less distractions from colleagues.
Limitations of Remote Working
When it comes to the downsides of remote working, there was often the belief that employees who worked remotely were less productive than staff in the office. There isn’t always as much accountability when you’re working from home, as nobody can see what you’re doing. Communication is also more difficult, especially with collaborative projects, and if you need a quick answer to a question.
Another limitation of remote working, from the viewpoint of the business is difficulties creating a great company culture. It can be more challenging to bond with your colleagues, and develop a team mentality.
The Future of Remote Working
Overall, it looks like remote working is here to stay. While not all businesses will continue to offer fully remote work, hybrid working is becoming increasingly popular. COVID-19 has shown the working world that staff can be just as, if not more, productive when they work from home, and this method of working can cut costs for both staff and the business. Employees don’t need to spend money on their daily commute, and the company will often be able to downsize their office space, or even stop renting a space altogether.
The main consideration when it comes to remote working is hiring the right people. If your employees or colleagues are motivated and organised, remote working can be a highly successful endeavour!