Largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, “work from home” or “WFH” is now more prevalent than ever.
In previous times, it was almost unthinkable be working from home on a permanent basis, and to not be site based 5 days a week in order to do a job effectively. Of course, there are certain industries (manufacturing, nursing, train driving) where it will never be possible to execute your core duties from a home environment. On a larger scale however, we now find ourselves in an environment where most employees in a corporate environment are set up to work remotely whenever and wherever they require.
This situation has certainly been exacerbated by the global pandemic and rolled out at a faster rate than it otherwise would have, although the majority of employers are now in a position where their overall operations can continue unimpeded despite key members of staff not being physically present. According to the ONS, in 2020, 46.6% of the UK workforce worked from home at some point. Of this 46.6%, a further 86% did so as a result of the pandemic. The ONS also found that occupations with a higher qualification required were more likely to provide home working opportunities than elementary and manual occupations.
At the start of the pandemic, many organisations would have been worried as a whole about how COVID-19 would affect their business going forward. There was also the worry from many employers about a potential productivity drop off as a result of less of the workforce being on site. Despite the concern, there is a resounding feeling that working from home has been highly effective for many businesses – it has provided cost saving benefits to both the employee and the employer, as well as more flexibility around family and other life commitments.
As part of my dissertation for my Business Studies Degree, I spoke to many senior professionals across the Financial Services industry about how their organisation had been affected by COVID-19 and working from home. The unanimous acknowledgement is that their organisations had invested appropriately in technology which has enabled a productive workforce who can work and communicate internally and externally from a home office, and that for many people they realised they did not need to be on site every day to carry out their responsibilities to the highest level.
From speaking to senior professionals within the Life Science & Pharmaceutical industry during my time at Mantell Associates, there is a similar feeling and appreciation towards remote working. Many professionals (of course less so on the manufacturing side) prefer working from home and now see it as a must have in any potential job switch. From an employer side, offering fully remote working opens up a much wider talent pool for potential new hires, as they are not restricting themselves only to the professionals who can commute each day.
There are many ways to manage working from home during COVID-19 in a productive, positive way. As of Tuesday 5thJanuary, the UK entered its third attempt at a national lockdown which means that I’ve experienced working from home, and my personal feeling toward it is positive overall. My personal preference will always be being office based; I love the atmosphere and the physical presence of my co-workers and the buzz you get from being around people, not to mention the privilege of working in Central London. That said, there are obvious benefits that can’t be denied – I no longer lose 3 hours commuting each day which has a knock-on effect on travel costs. I have more time to exercise but I am also closer to the fridge! Which is probably more of a disadvantage for someone like me right now who is trying to stick to a New Year diet.
Irrespective of my own personal preferences, the evidence is there for all companies to see that working from home will become a permanent fixture in many people’s lives – something you could argue is one of the very few positives to emerge from the pandemic.