Nic Redfern, finance director of KnowYourMoney.co.uk writes on whether the days of working in an office are now over.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a number of troubling prospects to consider. Indeed, as the virus swept the globe, ‘normal’ life as we know it came to an abrupt end.
One unavoidable change has been the way in which we work. With the introduction of nationally imposed lockdowns and strict social distancing policies, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, workers everywhere have had to trade in their desks for their kitchen table.
However, the introduction of more flexible working polices has been on the cards for quite some time, and the onset of the pandemic has fast-tracked this. According to a recent survey, the lockdown period saw just under half (49%) of the country’s workforce working from home. Although the Government started to encourage employees back into the office in June, rising concern about the threat of a second wave of the coronavirus forced prime minister Boris Johnson to take a U-turn on this advice. On the 22 September, once again, the UK workforce were urged to work from the safety of their homes, where possible.
This has been a pertinent reminder – if one was ever needed – that the virus isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Consequently, businesses will naturally be thinking about how best to move forward, and some might mull over the prospect of making working from home a more permanent fixture.
Saving money on office space
With many companies wondering how they can cut costs and conserve resources to navigate the crisis, one thought for employers might be to stop spending on office space. As the cost of renting such space is high and staff are unlikely to use it in the foreseeable future, some businesses might think about the prospect of continuing to work from home.
When businesses discount the usual fees that come with cleaning, maintaining and kitting out an office environment so that it is a suitable working space for employees, there are huge savings to be made.
Tellingly, recent research has revealed that 70% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK were actually making savings of up to £840 per month through the switch to remote working over the lockdown period. It should come as no surprise that 45% of SMEs therefore believe that their business would benefit from continuing such practices in the long-term.
The added considerations of long-term home working
But there are more factors for employers to consider when thinking about a permanent move to working from home.
While some employees who can easily complete their daily tasks with the help of just a laptop might be well-suited to home working, others won’t be so lucky. Indeed, it might be easy for employers to overlook the fact that some of their staff might not have the correct facilities for remote working. For example, some employees might need multiple screens or require access to large quantities of sensitive data to do their job well. As such, employers will need to think carefully about the costs of kitting out their staff with everything from desks, to robust cybersecurity software.
With security breaches costing UK companies a troubling £2.48 million per instance, businesses will likely be reassessing their security infrastructure, and indeed their budgets to ensure that they for not incur such costs. Whilst costly, employers would do well to invest in such measures if they are looking to make the permanent shift to remote working, lest they find themselves hit with an unexpected bill.
Ensuring staff welfare
Financial concerns aside, the switch to remote working might be tougher on some members of staff than others, so staying attuned to the wellbeing of employees should be top of the list for managerial staff.
Many people have embraced the home working revolution with open arms; however, others are understandably reluctant to make work such a constant presence in their homes and might struggle to adjust to this in the long term.
A recent survey has revealed that over one in five (22%) employees who are now working from home struggle when it comes to ‘switching off’ and putting work to bed at the end of the day. A further 19% are feeling lonely while working from home, with 17% also missing interactions with their colleagues.
This is certainly an important factor for employers to consider, and managers should look to organising regular socials and 1:1 meeting in order to safeguard the wellbeing of their staff and counteract any feelings of isolation.
Ultimately, the process of moving to working from home on a more permanent basis will differ from organisation to organisation. Some might think it best to bring in staff to work for a couple of days per week, and others might cull the office environment together. But all in all, as long as businesses weigh up all of the options carefully, I am confident that they will be able to safeguard their futures, whilst maintaining the well-being of their staff.
Nic Redfern is finance director for KnowYourMoney.co.uk, which is an independent financial comparison website, launched in 2004. Run by a dedicated team, Know Your Money’s goal is to provide clear, accurate and transparent comparisons for a wide range of financial products, such as business loans, mortgages and car insurance.
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