As coronavirus restrictions in the UK lift and life is getting back to normal, many people are welcoming the opportunity to return to their pre-pandemic lifestyles; some things, however, will likely be forever changed by the lockdown, one of the most obvious being the way people work.
While working from home has always been the way for some companies, 2020 saw the need for it to become mainstream as restrictions forced many out of offices, and even now as the country opens back up, it seems the home-working boom has paved the way for some long-term, possibly permanent changes.
Before the pandemic, 35% of companies said they would not allow any form of remote working, according to a survey conducted by YouGov; this figure dropped dramatically at the height of the restrictions, to just 14%, and even now restrictions have been lifted it has stayed low, now reported at around 19%. This indicates a shift in thinking amongst employers, no doubt triggered by the enforcement of remote working in 2020 which perhaps allowed the benefits to come to light in ways they had not before. Cutting commute times, flexibility around personal circumstances and improved productivity for some staff are all examples of the way remote working can improve the working day, for both employers and employees, as well as granting greater freedom and trust to staff which undoubtedly has increased morale.
It is impossible to ignore, however, the advantages of having staff physically back in the office- collaboration comes naturally in an environment where everybody is free to talk amongst themselves and share ideas and resources without the need to schedule a meeting or try to get in touch with somebody virtually. Team spirit grows stronger when colleagues are interacting regularly and spend break times together instead of only communicating for work matters, and in many cases being around other like-minded individuals is motivating and encourages professional development and hard work. It is unsurprising therefore that businesses are moving increasingly towards a hybrid approach, where the week is split between remote and office working. YouGov reported that 24% of companies surveyed would be allowing all staff to work from home at least one day a week moving forward, a figure which sat at only 17% before the pandemic. It’s clear from the reporting’s that many firms are tailoring their approach to match their specific needs, too; several businesses said they would be asking employees to come into the office for only a set number of days a week. 12% will request just 2 in-office days from staff each week, and 11% will ask for 3 days in the office.
With this in mind, it’s highly likely that larger companies especially will see less of a need for their office spaces, and downsizing will be an attractive option both from a financial perspective and also a safety one; smaller, self-contained offices have the benefit of being easier to control and more hygienic, which is advantageous going forward to minimise contamination as covid cases continue to grow in busier areas and establishments, including some larger workplaces. Furthermore, with hybrid working in place, the demand for physical desks and equipment is less as staff cycle through being physically in the office and working from home; at any one time, there will be less staff in the offices of many businesses than there was pre-pandemic. HSBC and Lloyds are examples of businesses that have already shared their plans to downsize and undoubtedly, they will be the first of many.
What approach has your business taken in working to a hybrid working model?