With the government recently declaring that up to a fifth of the workforce may be off sick during the peak of a coronavirus epidemic and that British workers could be told to stay at home for up to 3 months, major organisations have started taking logical precautions. Facebook and Google have already cancelled major upcoming events, whilst Twitter has started asking employees to work from home whenever possible. Companies will likely follow suit in the upcoming weeks.
For many, working from home is already a common occurrence, with over 80% of UK companies having a remote working policy, and whilst 85% of companies said that greater location flexibility leads to increased productivity, there are some things that newcomers need to be aware of before leaping.
From an employee’s perspective, working from home can present some immediately satisfying perks – who doesn’t enjoy waking up at 8:59, switching on your laptop and diving into a spreadsheet from the comfort of fresh sheets? The less said about the morning commute, the better.
However there is an often underreported Ying to this Yang and the truth is that, whilst most employees will be 13% more productive (even with Bargain Hunt permanently in the periphery), around 20% of all employees will feel isolated, lonely and stressed when taken out of a familiar office culture, creating lapses in concentration and costing businesses thousands in lost productivity.
Whilst a little lost productivity may seem like an arbitrary price to pay in testing times such as Coronavirus, working from home for too long can also hurt mental wellbeing with 22% of employees admitting to not being able to switch off after a day’s work.
As a business owner faced with potential mass working from home, there are precautions you can take to avoid employees feeling like they’re acting in a one-man production of Groundhog Day. One option is to provide technology that helps remote workers stay in contact with their colleagues. 62% of remote workers said they’d prefer this technology to be available, suggesting that the value of human contact is still as vital as ever. More lateral solutions include advising employees to get dressed in the morning, turning off the TV whilst they work and to occasionally (just occasionally) venture out and get some fresh air. These will all reduce ‘homeworking fatigue’ and make for a more pleasant, sustainable and productive experience.
Whilst there are potential downsides to all of this, notwithstanding the major elephant in the room, the overall option of working from home does seem to be net a positive one for employees and employers alike. 54 million tons of greenhouse gas could be written off every year if employees with the option to remote work did so for half the time of their contract. That’s because home workers use less fuel and consume fewer resources, reducing strain on national infrastructure as a result. So yeah, there’s that.
Whilst employers might (rightly) fret about employees’ wellbeing, technology is better than ever at keeping remote workers connected, with more readily accessible video conferencing and intuitive telephone systems available, companies can at least recreate some of their famous office cultures with just a home device, laptop and internet connection.
When it comes down to it, nobody can predict what the next few months look like for businesses in Great Britain. The best thing you can do as an employer is to prepare for the most common eventualities as prescribed by the Government, whilst making decisions that have the least impact on your supply chains, employee welfare and customer satisfaction.