Remote Working

The hidden realities of remote working

Lydia Watson

Remote working, WFH, out of office – whatever you call it, you’ve probably got an opinion on it. The refuge of the workshy, just an excuse to watch back-to-back episodes of Come Dine With Me and get paid for it – maybe that’s your perspective.

Or perhaps you’re the other way inclined. Remote working lets your employees embrace a work-life balance that’s unprecedented – no long commutes, early starts, or stressing about school drop-offs and pick-ups.

In reality, there are good and bad aspects to remote working – but they might surprise you.

The surprising business benefits of remote work

Believe it or not, your employees might be working harder at home. Despite being unsupervised, distractingly close to the fridge, and subject to interruptions from the kids/postal workers/neighbours’ home improvements, studies suggest the following:

  • People are working longer hours: a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the workday is around 48 minutes longer. That’s almost an extra hour of work your staff are doing for you – maybe because clock-watching to beat the rush hour traffic isn’t a factor!
  • They’re having more (efficient) meetings: they also found that workers have 13% more meetings, but they’re shorter. Surprising to those who think remote working kills a collaborative culture, but also proof that people are actually more efficient.
  • There are more emails being sent: another one for those concerned about communication while teams work remotely – they saw that workers send an average of 1.4 emails more every day, so good news for productivity.
  • Most say they’re productive and don’t slack off: a separate survey of remote workers had 88% saying they’re productive when they’re working from home, and 89% claiming they’ve never pretended to be working. So maybe trusting your people is the key.

But what is remote work like for your people?

So there are business perks to remote working that you might not have expected. But while it may seem like a cushy set-up for your team too, are you aware of who might be struggling?

  • Young flat-sharers: for a large proportion of young city-dwellers, cohabiting with a group of friends (or often strangers) is the reality. 37% of Londoners in flatshares are using their bedrooms as offices, 48% have nowhere proper to work, 44% deal with noisy housemates, and 43% can’t find a private space for confidential calls. They’re competing for bandwidth, and working propped up on pillows – far from optimal working conditions.
  • Working mothers: working parents are generally struggling with the lockdown. Lack of childcare options or holiday clubs during the summer break means balancing spreadsheets and spreading jam on to toast for the kids. And it’s women who have been hit the hardest – taking on 66% more parenting duties on average, and being more likely to take unpaid leave for childcare reasons.
  • Resented remote-workers: your company culture may well be taking a hit, if you have a mix of office and remote workers. One survey found 78% of WFH staff felt resented by their office-based colleagues. That’s not good for your teams, so it’s not good for your business.The future of work: what’s right for everyone?

The future of work: what’s right for everyone?

For some, remote working is a revelation – and as only 34% of UK office workers have stopped being remote, compared to Europe’s 68%, it’s clear that it’s a cultural change that’s unlikely to completely go away.

How do you know how your employees feel about it? Well, it’s simple – by asking them. That’s why we offer a Return to Work survey, so you can understand who’s happiest ‘out of office’ and who is keen to get back to their desk. Listen, understand, and know that there’s good and bad to every situation – especially remote working.

It’s time to start the conversation

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