Published Monday 21st September 2020
This year has seen dramatic changes in the way we live our work and personal lives. From how we socialise to how we shop, everything has had to change, and many have found themselves more willing to try something new than ever before.
What we’ve seen throughout this year may not just be a stop-gap in extreme circumstances, but a wave of new ideas that transform various aspects of our lives. In this sense, few changes have had as significant an impact as the transition to working from home.
What’s more, the real impact of this new practice is likely yet to be realised. Cost reduction consultants across various industries see the financial benefits, but the reality is that such a move on a national scale could transform countless areas of business management.
A Dramatic Workplace Shift
Before the UK lockdown in March, around 5% of all people working across the country were doing so from home. In September, months after the peak of the pandemic, that figure is currently at 36%.
While there are stark differences across various sectors, working from home is no longer just the practice of the few, but a reality for a significant proportion of the population.
The technology for working from home is nothing new – for many of us, all we need is a computer and broadband. What has delayed the move up to now was the belief that working from home was bad for productivity.
However, the reality of the last few months has changed that age-old belief for many industries, particularly media, marketing, finance and technology. Twitter has seen such success – or, at least, such little change – from the practice that it has declared its employees can work from home ‘forever’.
In July, the UK Government began a push to try and get people to return to their places of work, despite coronavirus guidelines. However, early findings show that companies are in no hurry to move away from this new practice.
Statistics show that worker footfall across the UK’s main cities was at 17% of pre-lockdown levels in August, unchanged from both June and July. Regardless of the duration of this pandemic, business leaders are beginning to realise that remote working is not as bad for productivity as previously feared.
Adapting to Work’s ‘New Normal’
One of the reasons the government is so keen to get people returning to work is for the sake of the broader city economy. From independent commuter cafes to giant shopping centres, a drastic reduction in footfall could potentially be the final blow for a bricks-and-mortar economy that has been on the back foot for many years.
However, working from home doesn’t just spell change for other businesses. The workforce is often the most significant part of any organisation, and a successful ‘work from home’ culture might require a fundamental shift in how firms care for their staff.
A consistent concern since the beginning of this pandemic is the impact working from home might have on workplace culture, particularly promotions and firings. Many people still believe that to achieve success, they need to be present to ensure their performance is being viewed.
Workplace equality advocates have raised particular alarm at how this new practice disproportionately benefits those with wealthier backgrounds – bigger homes with more quiet spaces – compared to, for example, single mothers.
There are also serious long-term questions about how working from home could impact workplace regulations and employee rights. Every aspect of the employee life, from potential tax relief on increased home bills to rules on illness, holiday and maternity leave, will have to be reconsidered and reprioritised in light of these new setups.
Over the last few months, working from home has felt like something of a bonus. However, with the practice set to last for many months and potentially years, businesses need to realise it is not as simple as connecting to servers.
Here at Expense Reduction Analysts, we’ve been working with major businesses throughout the pandemic, helping to streamline procurement strategies. If you’re looking to see how you can change your long-term practices for the sake of your staff, why not give our team a call and see what we could do for you?