Are you trying to work out how to support colleagues to be productive in a new hybrid world of work? If you are, analysis provided by the UK Government’s Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) “Homeworking in the UK” makes for an interesting read.
The unprecedented increase in homeworking in 2020, driven by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, has led many to consider the implications for this on productivity.
The report covers the period 2011 and 2020 – including the pandemic. It looks at indicators of productivity and work success such as pay, hours worked, bonuses, promotions and more. Insights are broken down by industry, region and demographics.
The research for this report uses objective indicators related to productivity that are consistent before and during the pandemic. Unlike other research the ONS analysis does not rely on workers’ self-reported perceptions of productivity.
A snapshot of key insights
Here are three graphics from the report that summarise key insights:
What people are saying about homeworking
Most welcome hybrid models but one warns that working from home could affect people’s work/life balance, another people’s earnings potential and a third that the growing trend is a threat to trade unions.
“For many people, there’s no doubt that homeworking is more productive than office-based work, although the outcome can often be poor work/life boundaries, as seen by the fact that homeworkers are more likely to work in the evenings. Equally, some struggle without colleagues being physically present. Allowing or encouraging homeworking is generally good for the soul. Who wants to be in a traffic jam or on a jam-packed tube when you could be having a coffee on your patio? Wellbeing support for remote workers needs to be more robust. Apps can be useful but there is no substitute for human interaction. Being able to absorb the body language and attitude of staff is something hard to duplicate on a Zoom call.”
Sarah Loates, founder of Derby-based Loates HR Consultancy:
“We have seen a definite increase in job candidates asking if the position they are applying for will allow for some working from home. What’s clear from this report is that people who work from home more are less likely to receive bonuses and may be hindering their chances of promotion. One often overlooked downside of a hybrid approach is the potential for a ‘2-tier’ system of employment to emerge. Often, this is because people choosing to spend a larger proportion of their time in the office are seen as ‘more committed’ than colleagues who opt to work from home more. In the corporate world, working from home can also mean you are not ‘present’ when career opportunities informally present themselves, for example, during a water cooler conversation or cigarette or vape break. In other words, people who work from home more could potentially lose out on projects that could enhance their CVs, and increase their chances of promotion. Remote working is without doubt an issue for people who are starting a new job, as you learn so much by sitting by an experienced employee, or through the natural ‘osmosis learning’ that occurs when hearing colleagues on the phone.”
“The idea of the traditional workplace is now a thing of the past, because for so many of us our ‘place’ of work can mean everywhere and anywhere. While homeworking has presented an opportunity to employers and employees alike to explore the trust in their relationship and the potential benefits a flexible approach can yield, we must also remain wary of it. Movements such as trades unions and worker collectives, already in retreat as a means of protection against hierarchical structures and the excesses of big business, are being starved of what ordinarily makes them so powerful: human connectedness. There’s no doubt that an era of labour market history came to an end with the Covid-19 pandemic. Change, of course, is inevitable and this evolution, like all others, is one we must adapt to if we are to achieve a positive outcome not just for the workforce but society as a whole. What’s absolutely critical is that we ensure basic human interaction is not compromised as part of the current workplace evolution.”
“The option to work from home is now an expectation for job seekers. Countless pieces of tech now enable us to be highly productive from home and working remotely also offers employees crucial ‘head space’ to concentrate without interruption. Hybrid models are by far the most effective, allowing businesses the chance to utilise office space cost-effectively and employees the option to blend work and home life seamlessly. Maintaining a certain amount of office space in which people can collaborate, combine skills, thoughts and energy creates a social element to work that cannot be underestimated. Businesses that offer employees an element of choice to suit their private and working preferences will definitely feel the benefit from a recruitment perspective.”
“Logistically, the extent to which companies are able to adopt homeworking clearly depends on the industry they are in, but equally their culture and people also play a key role in how remote working is embraced. What can be said of all businesses in all sectors, however, is that a one-size-fits-all approach will always fail when it comes to homeworking. For example, manufacturing and engineering will not translate into working from home, unless you want to cause a degree of division in your workforce, namely those on site and those in operations. We are seeing this happen right now. If your line of work is one that depends on collaboration and sharing, such as the creative industries, this doesn’t translate well to working from home, despite the huge rise in online tools, as people tend to ‘create’ better when physically together.”