When the current trend for working from home started, it was very much a “make-do” situation to help limit the spread of COVID-19. However, as the pandemic has continued to intensify, it has become clear that home working, for many people, will be standard practice – at least for now.
There remain, however, many factors at play here – with certain countries looking likely to return wholesale to the office sooner than others. Here is how the picture is currently shaping up.
Yes, home working “could be here to stay”
The UK-focused Institute of Directors (IoD) recently surveyed 958 company directors and found that, of these, 74% plan to leave increased home working a regular feature even after the COVID crisis subsides, reports This Week. The bosses were quizzed between 11 and 30 September.
More than four in ten of those managers deemed working from home “more effective than their previous setup,” according to the IoD – leading its director of policy, Roger Barker, to comment about remote working: “For many, it could be here to stay.”
Nonetheless, he cautioned that directors must not lose sight of how beneficial the office can be as a workplace. He explained: “For many companies, bringing teams together in person proves more productive and enjoyable” and provides chances “for informal development and networking”.
How the situation is shaping up in different countries
Barker suggested that, in the future, an increasing number of companies will take a “blended approach” to where their employees work. Indeed, according to a BBC poll in August, 50 of the UK’s biggest employers did not intend to bring all of their staff back to the office full-time any time soon.
While the office isn’t quite dead, then, employers might want to scale their office use up and down according to the local COVID picture. Many UK employers could, for example, take up serviced offices in the City of London from BE Offices and so pay only for as much space as they truly need.
It’s unclear how businesses in other countries might adjust to the pandemic. In New Zealand, for example, about 85% of office workers have returned to their offices, Forbes contributor Kenneth Rapoza reports, while only 6% of Taiwan’s workers were home-based when the pandemic peaked.
Are there practical benefits of working from home?
Yes, according to recent research by Cardiff University and the University of Southampton. The researchers carried out three surveys each including over 6,000 people across the UK – and 41% of respondents reported feeling as productive as home workers as they did in the usual office.
Almost nine in ten of the surveyed workers said they wished to continue working from home to some extent in the long term, while nearly half expressed a wish to work from home all the time.
Professor Alan Felstead of Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences observed that many people who enjoy working from home “are among the most productive, so preventing them from choosing how they work in the future does not make economic sense.”