2016/17 saw a surge in popularity for “New Ways of Working” which ultimately focused on increasing flexibility, home-based working, and desk sharing, which allowed many organisations to right size their property portfolios. For those implementing NWoW, the impacts were far reaching, with reports of: better work life balance, increases in wellbeing and productivity, financial savings and benefits for the planet with reduced travel miles and printing.
Before the lockdown, the UK had a relatively high level of occasional working at home compared with the EU average, at 18% of the workforce. Fast forward to the pandemic and that figure has increased to an average of 54%. There is little variation between sectors but of course, differences between industries.
The survey evidence suggests that after the crisis, many of these changes will stick, with a significant shift towards more working from home, possibly the biggest long-term shift in working patterns, directly attributable to the crisis.
The benefits of homeworking were overwhelmingly identified as giving a better work–life balance (cited by 61%), followed by greater collaboration (43%), greater ability to focus with fewer distractions (38%), and IT upskilling (33%). Less widespread were enhanced health and wellbeing (20%), the ability to meet work targets (14%), and higher levels of motivation (13%).
We must be wary of using data collected during a pandemic, with home schooling, strains on WIFI, a lack of or sharing of devices, anxieties, full lock downs and no social interaction, the fact that all of this went on for a loooong time and of course, let’s not forget that for many home working became a quick decision necessity.
We can and should use the data to help inform what “next” looks like, we need to continue the data collection, apply trends to our organisations and people and give home working a true and fair test under more controlled, planned and most importantly, balanced conditions. One size does not fit all.
Some jobs cannot simply be done working from home. I do not mean the jobs where technology / trust / new systems will enable home working, I mean the jobs where I’d prefer my surgeon to be in the room! (apologies for the sarcasm!).
It is also the case that some people can simply not work from home. Not because of the tasks they are doing but because of mental health and wellbeing, the need for interaction, the need for escapism from home life or the need to simply learn from others closely around them.
These findings are especially interesting, organisational policy generally exists for the 5% who want to take the piss yet it seems it’s the biggest thing that organisations need to change. The sudden necessity to change ways of working has highlighted poor technology in existence and the need to evolve, which given the world we are in where technology adoption is exponential, it shouldn’t really have taken a global pandemic for organisations to wake up! As for line managers and performance management – it will be interesting to see exactly what changes are going to be made here. The one thing which encapsulates all of these points is culture. To cement all of the learnings from the last 12 months, organisations must shift their mindset.
The Labour Force Survey (2), found that 9.3% of workers – equivalent to 3 million people – said they would prefer to work shorter hours and accept the cut in pay that comes with this.
Working 9-5, barely getting by, all talk and no giving, people using your mind without giving the credit… Well, Dolly was right, it is enough to drive us crazy if we let it.
We must embrace flexibility, full throttle. Where people work is sometimes outside of anybody’s control, but when and how we work is up for grabs.
- Eating breakfast with the kids and taking them to school.
- More sleep.
- More exercise.
- Loading the dishwasher during a quick stretch of the legs and resting of the eyes.
- Avoiding the dreaded sorting office or the guessing of where certain parcel couriers have dumped your parcels by having the ability to answer the door.
- Working in the garden on the 4 days a year the UK has some sun.
- Walking the dog during your lunch break.
- Going to the doctors without booking half a day’s holiday.
- Eating fresh (and much cheaper!) food from your own fridge.
- Drinking the coffee that you like.
- Opening a window (until your neighbour mows their lawn!).
- Controlling the heating from your phone.
None of this is not about New Ways of Working, this is about New Ways of Living.
What do you want your future living to look like?
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