As expected, the number of people working from home jumped dramatically in lockdown. In April 2020 the Office for National Statistics says nearly 47% of the workforce did some work at home and 86% did so because of the pandemic.
But what happens next?
At the start of lockdown, there was a sense that we’d work from home for the duration then return to our places of work as normal. It’s becoming increasingly clear it isn’t going to happen like this. YouGov says 60% of UK businesses expect to have more staff working from home post-Covid-19.
This is undoubtedly due in part to the realities of the situation, but what’s interesting is how many people are feeling positive about it. YouGov finds employees are keen to continue working from home – 59% of UK workers want to work from home more going forward.
It’s also true to say the concerns many of us had about working from home haven’t happened. YouGov reports:
- 72% of UK workers found adapting to home working was easy
- 37% say it’s improved their productivity and 33% say it’s made no difference
- 50% say it’s improved their work-life balance and 19% say it’s made no difference.
So what does all this mean for the future of working?
A Change in Overheads
Businesses are already looking at what the shift will mean for them. Over 40% of UK businesses say they expect to need less physical office space.
They also recognise they’ll need to embrace remote working technologies – 48% of UK businesses say they’ll make more use of online systems and software to keep their business going.
They recognise that with the right tools in place, business can carry on as normal. Reflecting on their use of Concur Invoice and Concur Expense in lockdown, Peter George, Group Financial Controller at Flexicare says:
“When we first went into lockdown, we asked ourselves as a finance team: is there anything we won’t be able to do? We decided that the only thing we wouldn’t be able to do was get into the office to open post. As it is, we can still get everything around the company. It would have been an admin nightmare otherwise – it’s a very scary thought. But we have a transparent system in place – we can turn our laptops on at home and carry on as normal.”
Duty of Care and Policy Changes
There may be fundamental shifts in the way businesses operate, but some core requirements will remain.
For example, businesses have a duty of care towards their employees, no matter where they are. Many workers will have made do with their kitchen tables and chairs for the past few months but these aren’t a long-term replacement for an ergonomic desk set up. It may be that while businesses save money on office space, they’ll need to divert it into creating proper workspaces for employees at home. Google’s CEO, for example, told employees: “we’ll be giving each Googler an allowance of $1,000 USD, or the equivalent value in your country, to expense necessary equipment and office furniture.”
And speaking of expenses, there are likely to be policy shifts too. Working from home policies will need to come to the fore and working from home clauses will need to be introduced to employment contracts. Expense policies are also likely to need to change to reflect changing requirements and the government has already issued new guidance on taxable expenses.
A New Way of Working
The phrase the ‘new normal’ is one we’ve become used to hearing – for good reason. There will be changes to every area of our lives and work is no exception. As we’ve seen here, some of the changes are already obvious. There will be others we haven’t anticipated, though. The question is: what will they be?