Working from home is now the norm. It has disrupted the way that people work for many businesses. And for some employers, 2020 has put to rest any fears about productivity when staff are working away from the office.
Whether working from home works for your business or is a temporary fix to exceptional circumstances, how your staff feel about remote work may not be all positive.
Working From Home
During the first lockdown, almost half of the UK working population were working from home. And in London that increases to 57.2 per cent of employees doing some work from home.
During the first lockdown, over 86 per cent of people working from home had never done so before. And while many have now returned to the workplace, there is still a significant amount of the UK workforce still using their kitchen table as their office.
Yet not everyone is embracing the new ‘work from home’ structure. For many people, going into the office is a chance to catch up with colleagues. Being in an office space is a social experience. And for people who either live alone or in cramped, shared housing, going to the office may be the respite they need.
Recreating the office atmosphere through apps like Microsoft Teams and Zoom can go some way to help those who feel disconnected from their fellow workers. However, virtual meetings can only go so far and are not a long-term replacement for in-person interactions.
Plus, scheduled video calls lose the spontaneity of meeting someone by the kettle or popping by their desk for a chat.
Productivity and Breaks
Of course, working undisturbed all day without unexpected visitors means that your staff can be more productive with their time. In fact, both employers and staff report an increase in productivity while working from home. And work that requires deep-thought is more likely to be done when you’re not interrupted by passing colleagues.
However, this can come with a cost of presenteeism. Presenteeism is where your staff feel they need ‘to be seen’ in order to be productive. Yet, long working hours do not necessarily equal productivity.
Presenteeism is a risk when working from home. Your staff may feel they have to ‘prove’ they are working because they are not in the office being seen to be working. It could mean they don’t take enough breaks, or feel like they need to respond to emails and messages outside of working hours. They may even have excess holiday allowance to take or be a member of staff who never uses their full entitlement.
Working to be seen and not taking enough breaks can result in burn out, fatigue, mental health issues and sick days.
The Joy of the Commute
While few people would say they enjoy their commute, travelling into an office gets you out of the house. But when you work from home, and the commute is to the kitchen table, your staff move less in the day.
Many people use the commute time to read, listen to podcasts, even to get their daily exercise. Encourage staff to still do a ‘commute’, especially if they are struggling with working from home. A simple morning walk around the block can help staff cope with spending seven days a week at home.
How Employers Can Support Staff
Checking in with your staff and having conversations will help you spot if someone is struggling with working from home. If it is unsafe for staff to come into work, encourage them to socialise online with members of the team.
Give them a space where they can recreate the kitchen chatter about last night’s TV. And while you can’t recreate the spontaneity, you can encourage staff to use phone calls over email if they want to communicate.
If staff see emails coming in from their line managers out of office hours, they are more likely to reply to them outside of work time. Encourage the use of email scheduling if someone needs to work late so other employees don’t feel they have to be online all of the time.
Reduce the Risk of Sick Days
By supporting your staff when they are working from home, you will reduce the stress they are under. This in turn will limit the amount of absences that you staff need to take as a result.