Is working from home the new normal for business?

Working from home

Covid-19 has dramatically changed our home life and how we socialise with friends and family. Yet its most sweeping effects can arguably be seen in the workplace – with millions of employees switching from their office desk to their kitchen table overnight.

 As the government encourages us to continue working from home (where possible) as part of its roadmap out of lockdown, it’s now more than a year since many staff were physically in the office. This has actually been beneficial for many including offering more flexibility to working parents, by improving their work-life balance. So, will working from home prove a flash in the pan for businesses – or is it a long-term trend that’s here to stay?

Here, we take a look at the reasons why businesses may be tempted to make remote working the new normal – and some things that might put them off.

Positives of home working for businesses

The rise of home working allows employers to:

  • Save money on office space and equipment

With legions of employees proving they can do their job just as effectively from home, the need for expensive office space in prime city centre locations has become less pressing. It’s no surprise that as many as 38% of business leaders are looking to downsize their floor space, given the potential savings on rent and the latest IT equipment.

  • Increase staff productivity

By giving staff more freedom over how they manage their workload – and effectively ending the commute – companies using a home working model are increasingly benefiting from higher productivity. A third (33%) of employers now say the switch to home working has boosted productivity levels – up from 28% in June 2020.

  • Widen the talent pool

Employers no longer need to stay within a fixed geographic area when hunting for new talent. Thanks to remote working, they can now cast the net much wider.

Negatives of home working for businesses

Despite the potential benefits on offer, home working can also:

  • Pose a risk to staff morale

While some people have embraced home working, a lack of face-to-face human interaction has been a real struggle for others. Businesses should consider the mental health consequences before permanently waving goodbye to their office.

  • Reduce oversight of staff

With employees scattered across different locations, some businesses may find it tough to keep track of what everyone is working on. It can be easy to lose sight of those who are struggling – and where skills gaps are emerging.

  • Cause communication to break down

Video conferencing tools have been a godsend for businesses since the pandemic struck. But workers can easily lose track of virtual meetings – and therefore miss out on vital information. Relying on home broadband also leaves employers at risk of technology problems.

After weighing up the pros and cons, many businesses are likely to switch to a ‘hybrid’ model as the pandemic threat recedes – combining the best of both worlds with a mix of home and office working.